Clearer Water Irish Cup Round Three
Immaculata v Crumlin Star (Grosvenor Recreation Centre, Saturday, 1.30pm)
IT’S a cross-city derby in Round Three of the Irish Cup on Saturday at Grosvenor Recreation Centre as Immaculata host Crumlin Star.
Both sides come into the game off the back of wins last weekend with the Mac taking the league points at Rosario, while Star moved into the semi-final of the Steel & Sons Cup with a home win over East Belfast.
Although winning the Irish Cup is the longest of long shots for the teams playing at this stage of the competition, remaining involved until the Fifth Round in early January is viewed as a mini goal with the possibility of being pitted against one of the NIFL Premiership big guns.
So, this weekend, teams will be aware they are just two wins away from such a scenario and this West versus North affair ought to have an added bite.
Immaculata were happy with their 3-1 win at Ulidia at the weekend with two goals in five second half minutes proving the difference and player-manager Brian McCaul is happy with their early season form.
“There is a turnover from last year, but twos and threes here and there in and out,” he said.
“We’re missing a couple, but this is us getting a settled squad now. We’ve won four or five on the bounce, so it’s building a bit of momentum.
“We had a couple of negative results in terms of dropping points, but going to Islandmagee we got a good draw and then Derriaghy - you take draws up there.
“We’re just looking to pick up points and now it’s onto Star in the Cup.”
Going up against last season’s Intermediate Cup winners will be a good test of their credentials, but the Mac boss is quietly confident due to the recent meetings between the sides.
Star were dominant in this fixture for some time, but Immaculata have managed to score some recent results against their Ardoyne rivals.
McCaul anticipates a tough test, but it is one he and his players will relish.
“Until the last game we’d beaten them three on the bounce,” he outlined.
“Last time we were one up until the 80th minute and they scored two, so it’s on the day performances. We don’t fear going to them and they won’t fear coming to us as there’s mutual respect there.
“Our boys know it’s one of those fixtures everyone looks at. Star have been the cream of the crop for the past ten years in all aspects of Intermediate football.
“We’re at home and have got the monkey off our back after years of not beating them, so hopefully we can get the result.”
To say that Star have had their sights firmly fixed on cup action this season would be putting it mildly as despite heading into the final weekend in October they have had just three league games.
But that is also a measure of their consistency to win games on all fronts and this weekend it’s the short trip to the west of the city to keep their Irish Cup campaign on track.
Manager Paul Trainor expects a typical ding-dong affair and insists it will be fine margins which decide who will make it into the hat for the Fourth Round draw.
“A derby game against the Mac is always big,” he stressed.
“‘Bru’ (Brian McCaul) has had them up there the last number of years so it will be a typical derby game.
“It’s been a few years since we got a run in the Irish Cup in terms of the Fifth Round where you get a bit of publicity and a few quid of you play one of the bigger teams.
“It was a tight, fast and furious game. That’s just the way the teams play each other. Form goes out the window in derby games, so it’s just about who takes their chances.”
There isn’t much Star haven’t won over the past number of years, but one trophy that has eluded them is the Steel & Sons Cup.
It would be fair to say that celebrating on Christmas Day would put the cap on the career of many of their squad and they are back into the last four following their win over East Belfast on Saturday.
Trainor was delighted with how his players performance and agreed that getting to the final this time is a major priority.
“The boys performed really well and 2-1 wasn’t a true reflection on the game,” he reflected.
“We gave a goal away late on and that sort of flattered the East as I thought we could have won by four or five had we taken our chances, but it’s just good to get back into a semi-final.
“This is the only one that had eluded us. We’ve got into semi-finals before, two up against the Blues one year and then Sirocco Works beat us on penalties in another one. This is our third semi-final in five or six years.
“It’s (final) on Christmas Day and you get a big crowd. The Intermediate Cup is probably harder to win but the Steel Cup just has that buzz about it.”
Also in Irish Cup action this Saturday, Willowbank host Moyola Park at The Cliff in Larne, while Derriaghy CC host Aquinas. All games kick-off at 1.30pm.