CRUMLIN Star travel to face Colin Valley in a cross-city clash in the first round of the Intermediate Cup at the weekend (Valley Park, 1.30pm).

Star, who won the cup in 2019, are two divisions above Colin Valley, but both sides have endured inconsistent starts to the season.

The North Belfast side are ninth after four games, having won once, lost once and drawn twice so far this term. They have enjoyed more success in the cup competitions, securing their passage to the quarterfinals of the Border Cup last weekend with a thrilling 3-2 win over Abbey Villa.

Their manager Paul Trainor was pleased that his side got over the line against Abbey Villa but concedes that they should have done so by a far greater margin.

“It was a tough game at the weekend, Abbey Villa aren’t a bad side but I think if we had have taken our chances, which we had plenty of, the score line could have been greater,” he said.

“The score line flattered them in the end, we missed plenty of one on ones so we will have to improve in that department.

“They scored a penalty with the last kick of the game which made it look closer than what it was, but I’m just glad to get over the line and into the quarter finals.”

Trainor is hoping that Star can embark on another cup run in the Intermediate Cup to complement their smooth passage so far in the Border Cup, competitions which the club are no strangers to winning in the past few years.

“We’re well used to having good cup runs now,” he continued.

“We obviously beat Queen’s to win the Intermediate Cup just before the pandemic and in the three to four years before Covid we also won the Border Cup three times, so we do enjoy going on runs in the cup. They keep a good buzz about the club.”

The boss is keen for the North Belfast outfit to use the momentum generated by cup successes so far to reignite their faltering league campaign, in what Trainor believes is a very competitive Premier Division.

“It has been quite stop-start so far, but if we can get our confidence up, we can hopefully string a run of results together,” he added.

“After this weekend’s cup game, we have two league games at home, so we would like to start getting points on the board and moving up the table.

“I think the league is going to be really tough to win this year, it is not down to a couple of teams, there are five or six who think they can win it.”

Whilst Star start the game as favourites, Trainor insists that they will not be underestimating Colin Valley.

“We give every team the respect they deserve,” he insists.

“It is going to be a tough game; we’re playing away from home, and I saw them play away to Mossley and they score goals. Although they did leak a few in that game, we need to give them a bit of respect.

“We have a couple of lads from the west so we’ll have a yarn with them at training to find out more about how they play and things like that, but it will be a tricky game.”

Colin Valley, meanwhile, have won one of their five league games so far this season, drawing and losing the other two fixtures in Division 1B.

Their first team coach Críostóir McKenna is equally hopeful that a positive result at the weekend can help their faltering league campaign.

“We have played a run of games lately in the Border Cup losing to Mosley at the weekend whilst also narrowly losing to Newcastle in the Irish Cup recently,” he reports.

“We are waiting on players returning from injury so hopefully once we get going into league action again our team will start getting stronger again and that will be our main focus for this season.

“For that reason, the cup competitions have allowed us time to help players recover.”

The Colin Valley team

The Colin Valley team

McKenna was full of praise for Crumlin Star and knows it will be a tough ask for his side to upset the odds on Saturday.

“They are an excellent team who have done extremely well last few years,” he noted.

“They are always at the right end of the Premiership too so we know it will be a difficult challenge for us.

“They have quality all over the park, so we will definitely be hoping to take our chances when we get them.”

He is hopeful that a combination of home advantage and the underdog tag will ease the pressure on his team and allow them to play without fear.

“I wouldn’t say playing at home gives us an advantage when playing teams of this calibre but it will certainly help us,” he outlined.

“Hopefully we can get a good support up and it will spur the team on.

“I think it takes the pressure off us being the underdogs, we have nothing to lose.

“Hopefully we can give them a competitive game and in football, sometimes with luck and hard work, upsets can happen.”

West Belfast derby

The draw also sees a West Belfast derby take place on Saturday, as St James’ Swifts host Willowbank at Suffolk Road.

The sides have enjoyed similar league fortunes so far this season, with the Swifts top of the Ballymena Intermediate League after five straight league wins.

Willowbank are fourth in the NAFL Division 1C having won four and drawn one of their five games so far, although they are only a point of top with two games in hand.

Both teams are already through to the next round of the Steel and Son’s Cup, with St James thumping Islandmagee 4-1 and Willowbank, who won the Junior Cup in 2020, overcoming Grove United 3-0.

With two in form teams hoping to embark on another cup run, this one promises to be an exciting contest.

A month of various cup commitments continues for the rest of the local amateur sides, who are also featuring across the 48 first round ties of this year’s Intermediate Cup.

Immaculata, fresh from securing their place in round four of the Border Cup are away to Abbey Villa, who were knocked out of the same competition by Crumlin Star.

Belfast Celtic will be the visitors for Valley Rangers, with fellow West Belfast outfit Donegal Celtic also on the road, travelling to play Carrick Rangers’ Reserve side.

There are three other reserve sides in action with Crusaders welcoming Comber Rec, Ballinamallard hosting Suffolk and Cliftonville Olympic facing Islandmagee away from home.

Rosario have been pitted against Dromara whilst Finaghy host Mossley and Malachians take on Newtowne.
All games kick-off at 1.30pm.