Football/Soccer

No weight of history on Institute shoulders ahead of League Cup semi with Crusaders

Crusaders Philip Lowry and Institute Aaron Jarvis in action. The side clash in tonight's League Cup semi-finals

Bet McLean League Cup semi-finals

INSTITUTE boss Sean Connor insists he doesn’t feel the weight of history on his shoulders as the Derry club aims to reach their first-ever senior final.

’Stute have battled their way through to tonight’s League Cup semi-finals against Crusaders (Seaview, 7.45pm) and hope to make history.

Ten years ago they were 90 minutes away from an Irish Cup final but Crusaders proved too strong in their last four clash.

They face the same opposition this evening, and have a thick layer of confidence stitched to their backs going into the clash following last weekend’s shock 2-0 win over title contenders Coleraine.

“We’ll just be forensic about our job,” said Connor, who has performed well in the Institute hotseat since taking over in mid-September.

“We want to put substance and work-rate into our play and as we grow from that we can become more creative as a team. This is just another game, but the next game is always the most important game.”

The Drumahoe club, who play their home games at the Brandywell, grabbed a 1-1 draw on their last visit to Crusaders on November 2.

Colm McLaughlin put Institute ahead in the league game before being pegged back a couple of minutes later through Crusaders striker Jamie McGonigle, but ’Stute held their own in a goalless second half.

“We don’t go there with any complacency,” said Connor, who had playing spells with Port Vale, Distillery and Cliftonville.

“Maybe they took us a wee bit for granted that day but they’ll certainly not do that tomorrow night so maybe the element of surprise is gone. As a group of players we know if we can perform to that level we’ll not be too far away.”

Connor’s side is boosted by the return of Ryan Morrow and Aidy McLaughlin, both of whom were suspended for last Saturday’s victory over the Bannsiders.

The Belfast native enjoyed managerial spells with Galway United, Sligo and Bohemians before going further afield to coach in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Connor was delighted to take over at Institute on September 19 – replacing John Quigg who resigned - having been away from the sidelines for several years.

“The time out, I spent it really well,” he said. “I went back to Jordanstown and did a Bachelor of Science degree in sports coaching and just finished a Masters in sports psychology, but I was ready to get back into coaching.

“It’s made me much more reflective, much more critical of myself in all situations and it’s given me a better grounding and knowledge base to operate from. In terms of sports psychology at elite level it’s all about man-management and managing people, so the degree and Masters have given me a great schooling in that field.”

Since his arrival, Institute’s fortunes have improved even if they still reside second from bottom.

“I’ve said all along that we have the tools to get out of the relegation zone – no doubt,” Connor said.

“I’d love to strengthen and bring one or two in in January. When I came in this year we were really cut adrift – the job was to finish outside the bottom two and that hasn’t changed.”

Institute have claimed draws against Ballymena, Glentoran and Larne under Connor while Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Coleraine topped the lot in his short reign.

“It’s probably the best result we’ve had but it’s not necessarily the best performance because we’ve been playing reasonably well…

“We’re not getting carried away with Saturday’s result because I think it’s been coming. All the draws we were having were coming against a lot of the top teams.”

Meanwhile, Oran Kearney’s Coleraine side will hope to get back to winning ways against League Cup semi-final opponents Linfield (Windsor Park, 7.45pm) after slipping to surprise defeats to the bottom two Institute and Warrenpoint last month.

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Football/Soccer