Irish Cup Fifth Round Preview
The year was 1881, Queen Victoria was the monarch who reigned victorious, William Gladstone her prime minister and the first Boer war drew to a close much to the relief of those affected by the conflict. It was against this backdrop that the fourth oldest cup competition in world football was to make its debut, the Irish Cup was born.
Fast forward to 2018 and since its inauguration no less than 25 different teams have had their name proudly engraved on the famous trophy with (Lisburn) Distillery being the third highest recipients of the trophy having brought it home on less than 12 separate occasions a feat only being eclipsed by Linfield and Glentoran.
And yet despite this proud record the White shirts of Distillery in 2018 go into battle in the competition this weekend as clear underdogs as they take on the might of a Coleraine side currently strutting their talents on the top stages of the Premiership whereas it is the parochial hall type playing surfaces of the Premier Intermediate league that see the history making Whites currently displaying their wares on every week.
Both sides have of course had their financial problems in recent times but whereas the Bannsiders of Coleraine were able to emerge from theirs relatively unscathed Distillery felt the full force of theirs and it is little short of a miracle that the club are still in existence, a feat only achieved by the hard work of its small band of supporters.
The chances of Distillery causing any form of upset at the Showgrounds on Saturday are slim to say the least, even less so with the introduction of a new rule permitting seven substitute players to be on the bench, but if they can draw any heart then it might come from the downturn in form of late from Coleraine with the men from the North west having only secured two points from their last two games a run of form which has saw them surrender the lead in the Danske Bank premiership. Likewise however Distillery also go into the game on a bad run with back to back reverses also being suffered and like their senior opponents they also have been knocked off the top of their league leading perch in the last few weeks.
As defeated finalists at the hands of Linfield last season, from a game in which they simply didn’t turn up, Coleraine go into the game and indeed the competition itself with more to prove than most and this should provide manager Oran Kearney with all the team talk that he needs to inspire his players. For Distillery doubtless the message coming from the management team of Colin McIlwaine and George O’Boyle will be one of going out to enjoy the occasion and above all to leave with pride intact, achieve that and there will be happy faces, achieve any more than that and those smiles might just hang around for a good deal longer.
It’s hard to see how lowly Distillery can cause an upset but that’s the magic of the Irish cup, of any cup in fact, there’s always that chance, no matter how remote, that the unthinkable can happen. That’s the magic of the cup!
Elsewhere on Saturday the rest of the fifth round ties has also thrown up some other fascinating ties which scream out the possibility of giant killing feats – Lurgan Celtic v Glentoran, Ards v Crumlin Star, Ballymena v Moyola Park, Crusaders v Maiden City, Linfield v Glebe Rangers – is there a chance of a cup upset amongst any of these? As with Lisburn Distillery the odds are against the lower sides but on any given day, well who knows?
There are also a number of other fascinating ties taking place with all Premiership match ups between Carrick Rangers v Glenavon and Cliftonville v Warrenpoint Town whilst teams from the Championship also face some tasty encounters with Knockbreda v Institute, Newry v HW Welders and Portadown v Ballyclare being the pick of the bunch.
Cup fever is well and truly underway here’s hoping we can all witness something unexpected on the day but one thing is for certain in that, regardless of who eventually goes on to pick up the famous trophy in May of this year, that plucky Distillery will still remain in third place on the winners leader board.
Preview by Colin Hopkins