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.
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.
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).
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.
But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.