Tennent's Irish Cup: Coleraine v H & W Welders
Having seen an upturn in form in the Danske Bank Premiership, Coleraine manager Rodney McAree expects it to continue as the Bannsiders begin the defence of their Tennents Irish Cup crown.
Coleraine - then managed by Oran Kearney - ended a 15 year wait for major honours last season as they claimed a 3-1 win over Cliftonville at Windsor Park back in May.
McAree’s charges take on fifth placed Bluefin Sport Championship side Harland & Wolff Welders in Saturday’s fifth round tie at Ballycastle Road well aware of the potential banana skin it could be.
“They’ve caused upsets down the years and we have to make sure another one doesn’t happen at The Showgrounds,” said McAree.
“We certainly won’t be taking them lightly. There are always upsets in the cup and we have to make sure it’s not us on the day.
“We will pay them the same respect as we show any other team, and we will do our homework on them.
“Our target has to be a third Irish Cup final in a row,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, Jamie McGonigle believes Coleraine will have to be at their best if they are to reach the Sixth Round.
McGonigle hopes his team-mates can put up a strong defence of their trophy, starting with tomorrow’s visit of Norman Kelly’s side.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game as they are up near the top of the Championship,” he said. “There are no easy games in Cup competitions and we have already been given a stern test by Ballyclare Comrades in the League Cup.
“We will give them the upmost respect but if we focus on our game, then I’m confident we can reach the next round.
“Winning the Irish Cup was a great experience, but it’s over with now and we want to retain it.
“It’s important that we take every game as it comes and see where it takes us.”
The Stripes have finally found their mojo under new boss McAree after collecting 10 points from a possible 12 over the festive fixtures.
McGonigle admits things are starting to take shape at The Showgrounds.
“I think with the new manager coming in it was always going to take time,” he added.
“There have been a few good results and then a few poor ones but hopefully we have got a run of form going now.
“It’s important that we kick on in both the league and cup so we have something to play for at the end of the season.”
McGonigle will be joined by his Northern Ireland under-21 team-mate Ben Doherty, as well as Jamie Glackin who are set to make their debuts after joining in the January transfer window.
“Ben is a good signing for us as he is a hard worker and can add a goal threat,” McGonigle concluded.
“Jamie has been a good Irish League player now for the last four or five years and we are excited to see what he can add to us.
“Both players will add competition for places and that’s important.”
The Welders suffered a 3-1 home loss to Knockbreda in the Championship last weekend, but they have shown in the past they can pull off an upset, reaching the quarter-finals in 2015 after beating Glenavon in the last time they progressed to the sixth round.
Other intriguing matches in the fifth round include Ards of the Premiership at home to Carrick Rangers from the Championship.
Larne Tech OB will be aiming to do a spot of giantkilling when they take on Limavady United away from home. Larne operate in Division 1A of the Amateur League, while Limavady play their football in the Championship.
All the other ties look set to be tight affairs. Improving Ballinamallard United will be hosting fellow Championship side PSNI in Fermanagh, while Queen’s University are at home to fellow NIFL Intermediate outfit Lisburn Distillery.
Championship teams Knockbreda and Dergview will all enjoy home advantage against Intermediate League outfits Strabane Athletic and Maiden City respectively.