Football/Soccer

Newry City boss Darren Mullen looking forward to Irish Cup clash against high-flying Larne

Irish Cup draw

Darren Mullen expects an entertaining cup tie when his Newry City side travel to Larne on January 5

BEATING Irish Cup holders Coleraine in the league last weekend was a timely confidence boost for Newry City who were paired with Larne in yesterday's fifth round draw.

The county Down Premiership battlers will travel to the Championship frontrunners on January 5 and Newry manager Darren Mullen is expecting an entertaining tie at Inver Park.

“It's a terrific draw,” said Mullen, the architect of Newry's rise from lower league obscurity over the past five seasons.

“It's two sides that like to football, we played them twice last year and had two really good, close games and I'd imagine this will be a good game for neutrals to watch.”

Larne have been transformed since ‘Purplebricks' property millionaire Kenny Bruce took over the club pledging to bankroll promotion to the Premiership and challenge for the biggest trophies in local football.

So far his investment is paying dividends. Larne are unbeaten in the Championship this season with 14 wins and three draws and lead second placed Dundela by a whopping 14 points.

The sides met twice last season: Newry won 2-1 at home and lost 3-2 when they visited Inver Park. Mullen believes that the new surface at the seaside venue will suit his team on January 5.

“They have come on leaps and bounds from last year but I'd like to think we have as well so it's certainly going to be an interesting game,” he said.

“Everybody would like a home draw but we've come from having to scrap from the very first round for three or four years and missing out getting to the big draw on a couple of occasions so we can see it from both sides.

“It's very difficult for teams at the lower levels to get to this stage and I honestly don't mind going to Larne, it's a game to look forward to.”

Before their cup clash with Larne, Newry face a potentially season-defining six-match schedule comprising of games against the current top three - Ballymena, Linfield and Glentoran – and the three teams directly above them in the table – Dungannon Swifts, Warrenpoint Town and Institute.

“The games will come thick and fast,” said Mullen.

“There'll be a lot of twists and turns and there'll be weeks when it will go well and weeks when it won't. Last weekend was a win (1-0 against Coleraine) most people outside the club didn't expect us to get but I knew we had been playing very well and we went there confident and with a gameplan to go and win the game and the players carried that out.

“We'd been playing well up to it – we should have got something from Ballymena, we should have got something from Crusaders… But we can't keep saying ‘should have' we need to get results and we have a huge game now against Dungannon on Saturday.

“It's an opportunity for us to go above them and then we welcome Linfield and Glentoran, so it's all good. It's testing for me and testing for the players but we're happy to be here.”

Meanwhile, in the glamour draw of the Irish Cup fifth round, Crusaders will host Glentoran while yesterday's draw pitted holders Coleraine against H&W Welders.

Cliftonville, losing finalists in May, will be at home to Dungannon Swifts with Institute hosting Warrenpoint Town in another all-Premiership tie.

Tennent's Irish Cup fifth round draw (January 5)

Larne v Newry City, Crusaders v Glentoran, Knockbreda v Strabane Athletic, Cliftonville v Dungannon Swifts, Loughgall v Crumlin Star, Dundela v Ballymena United, Coleraine v H&W Welders, Dergview v Maiden City, Abbey Villa v Portadown, Queen's University v Lisburn Distillery, Ards v Carrick Rangers, Limavady United v Larne Tech Old Boys, Glenavon v Rosemount Rec, Institute v Warrenpoint Town, Linfield v Ballyclare Comrades, Ballinamallard United v PSNI

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