CLIFTONVILLE will hope to make it to their third Irish Cup semi-final in four years when they take on Dungannon Swifts at Solitude on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off).
Paddy McLaughlin’s men have failed to make it beyond the last four on each of the three occasions as they chase their first cup success in 44 years. The Derry native isn’t expecting an easy task on Saturday.
The Swifts come into Saturday’s clash off the back of one win in their last six league games and needed a late comeback to see off Knockbreda and book their place in the last eight draw.
Despite this, McLaughlin believes that the Tyrone side’s league form goes out the window when it comes to the Cup and feels it as an opportunity for Dean Shiels side to try and salvage their season.
“Premiership opposition and you know the way it works: league form goes out the window when it comes to cup competitions,” McLaughlin believes.
“They’ve everything to play for and nothing to lose almost. Dungannon will be a threat and they will be dangerous; you know how good they play on good surfaces.
“They’ll be disappointed with their result last Friday and bad results recently, but cup football is completely different from league football.
“Teams can salvage their season with a good cup run and I’m sure that’s what they’ll be targeting, but we want to stay in the cup ourselves.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get to a semi-final just like Dungannon. The good thing about it for us, we’re at home. Our home form has been excellent and it’s important that we keep that.
“They’ve got the potential to upset you if you take lightly, so it’s one thing we’ll be guarding our boys against all week.
“We’ll be telling them to treat it like every game and treat it like it is, a massive game for us and an opportunity to get into a cup semi-final.”
🏆 It's Irish Cup week. #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/i4V9KQvPK6— Cliftonville FC (@cliftonvillefc) February 27, 2023
The Cliftonville boss will be planning without Levi Ives for the remainder of the campaign after the left-back sustained a tear in his quad during their victory over Portadown two weeks ago.
However, he is pleased to have viable options to occupy the left-back slot and praised the performance of Aaron Traynor in the Reds’ 2-1 victory over Glentoran.
“It’s not looking good for him, he’s took a bad tear in the quad,” revealed McLaughlin.
“Without surgery, it is probably going to see out his season and with surgery, the recovery from that will probably touch right into the end of the season and going into the off season. It’s not looking good. It’s very, very frustrating for him because what a player he is.
“He’s one of our best players last year and in every year, he’s such a good player.
“We lost him at the start of the season, we had him back in the middle and now we’re going to lose him at the end, which is very disappointing for him especially, because he works so hard to get back from bad injuries.
“We’re very lucky that we have good players that can cover him like Luke Turner and Aaron Traynor was superb on Saturday.
“He was playing against the best wide man in Ireland and nullified him really well, so you give him credit.
“It was his first real start in tough game and he’s come in and did a brilliant job for us. We’re lucky to have him but we’re disappointed that it looks like we’ll be without Levi until the end of the season.”
McLaughlin is able to call upon the services of Jamie McDonagh after the winger sat out the weekend win due to a suspension, and he acknowledged that a full quota is essential at the Solitude side battle on two fronts.
“We’ve no more suspensions, I don’t think the bookings on the weekend will affect any suspensions on Saturday,” he said.
“We’re lucky enough to have McDonagh back again and it takes us almost back to a full quota now.
“We’ve just Stephen Mallon and Levi we’ll be without until the end of the season. Apart from those two, I think we’ve a full squad and it’s important to have that at this stage of the season because the games are vital. They’re thick and fast and we’ve two competitions still to play for. We’ll need everyone.”