Traditional targets still stand in unique Loughgall campaign

In a season defined by the unusual, Loughgall manager Dean Smith will call for a focus on the familiar this weekend at Lakeview Park.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 6:00 am

Following over a year of uncertainty for football outside the Irish League’s top tier as part of the coronavirus pandemic impact, Smith’s Villagers will step out on home soil tomorrow (Saturday) aiming for the welcome opportunity to control 90 minutes between first whistle and last.

A Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup reduced and revised due to coronavirus considerations offers Loughgall or Banbridge Town an opportunity to join high-profile clubs including Linfield, Crusaders and Cliftonville in the last 16.

The non-elite status designated to both Loughgall and Banbridge Town has led to a season on the sidelines with the exception of recent weeks with a return to training and friendlies in preparation for a first-round Irish Cup date.

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Loughgall manager Dean Smith.

Smith is happy to deliver praise for the way in which his players managed to maintain fitness during lockdown restrictions and the professionalism towards the recent return - but within the countdown towards kick-off he will offer a stark warning to concentrate on the destination not just the journey.

“After everything else it will come down to two clubs trying to win an Irish Cup tie and get into the last 16 of the competition,” said Smith. “We were always going to participate in the Irish Cup once everything was deemed safe for a return and certainly both clubs must look on the tie as winnable I’m sure.

“It has been brilliant getting back together and training or playing friendlies but the serious business comes around at 3pm on Saturday and every player must be ready.

“They have been fantastic off the pitch during the whole situation but now it’s all about getting that reward for the hard work.

“We have to produce the best possible standard under the circumstances and go in with the right mindset.”

Today’s fixtures are as follows across the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup and Danske Bank Premiership competitions:

DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP: Ballymena United v Glenavon, Coleraine v Cliftonville, Glentoran v Linfield, Portadown v Warrenpoint Town (all 3pm), Crusaders v Larne (5.30)

IRISH CUP: Knockbreda v Newington (2.30), Ballinamallard United v Dergview, Loughgall v Banbridge Town (both 3pm).

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