Sign up to the Irish FA Newsletter today

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news from the Irish FA including ticket updates, match information, competitions, articles and much more.
Thank you

Friday 29 Mar 2024
Tasty encounters in Irish Cup semi-finals

The three teams who have been the most consistent performers in the NIFL Premiership this season will switch their focus to Northern Ireland’s premier cup competition this weekend.

This season’s Clearer Water Irish Cup competition has reached the semi-finals stage and two tasty Easter treats are set to be served up.

Current league leaders Larne will face third-placed Cliftonville at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park tomorrow (5.30pm).

But first up, on Good Friday (today, 29 March), is a mouthwatering tie between Belfast’s traditional Big Two – Linfield and Glentoran.

Linfield currently lie second in the Premiership, two points behind reigning champions Larne, while the Glens are in fourth position in the standings well adrift of the top three. However, that usually counts for nothing when it comes to a huge cup clash.

David Healy’s Blues have been ticking over nicely in the league, despite the odd blip, and they will be keen to put more silverware in the trophy cabinet this season. They have already won the NIFL BetMcLean League Cup.

Glentoran interim manager Declan Devine realises his team will be underdogs going into the game, despite having home advantage.

"We're under no illusions that it's going to be an extremely difficult game, but we're ready for that,” he told the BBC.

"We're not afraid of difficulty. Linfield are so many points ahead of us in the league for a reason this year, but it's a one-off game, it's played to a finish, and the boys have prepared well all week,” added Devine, who took over from Warren Feeney earlier this month.

The teams have met on four occasions so far this season. In the league Linfield have won 2-0 twice at Windsor Park, while Glentoran enjoyed a 4-0 victory at The Oval. The Blues also won 2-1 at The Oval in the BetMcLean Cup.

The Oval was subject to a pitch inspection earlier today - and the pitch was deemed playable. Kick-off time is 7.45pm.

The second semi-final between Cliftonville and Larne should be a tasty encounter, too.

The Reds have not lifted the Irish Cup since 1979, while Larne have never won it. The Inver Reds have appeared in six Irish Cup finals previously but lost them all.

Both teams have had strong league campaigns to date in 2023-24 and go into the game in optimistic mood.

Reds boss Jim Magilton would love to be the manager who guides Cliftonville to a long-awaited Irish Cup success, while Larne boss Tiernan Lynch would no doubt love to add Irish Cup glory to his list of achievements, including securing a first ever NIFL Premiership title last season and the County Antrim Shield for four consecutive years.

"Winning the FA Cup was always my dream when I was younger and now as a manager my dream is to win the Irish Cup for Cliftonville,” said Magilton prior to their sixth round win over Loughgall.

Meanwhile, Larne defender Ro-Shaun Williams, who signed for the club in January, has revealed he is looking forward to tomorrow’s game.

He told the club’s website: “It gives us an opportunity to get to a final... and people have spoken to me about how important it is to get to the final and how big of a day it is.”

The teams have met twice in the league this season. They drew 1-1 at Solitude back in August, while Larne edged the Reds 2-1 at Inver Park in November.

Both Clearer Water Irish Cup semi-finals are being streamed live on the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport NI website.