Irish Cup rolling back the years as Belfast Celtic are drawn against Larne

Stephen McAlorum pictured with the Irish Cup during his playing days with Glentoran Picture by Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Pádraig Ó Meiscill

Irish Cup draw

THERE are eight mentions of Belfast Celtic on the Irish Cup's roll of honour, but the Belfast Celtic that Larne will face next month will go into the game as firm underdogs.

Formerly Sport & Leisure, the west Belfast club only took on the name of their illustrious predecessors in the summer and, already, the historic success appears to be rubbing off on them.

The modern day Belfast Celtic, currently playing their football in the Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League, were paired with Danske Bank Premiership side Larne in yesterday's fifth round Irish Cup draw, and boss Stephen McAlorum fully intends to make the most of the occasion.

“Larne is a massive draw and it's the first time Belfast Celtic [in its current manifestation] have been in the Irish Cup,” said McAlorum of his team, who have already won four games to get to this stage of the competition.

“To reach this sort of stage is a massive achievement for the players and it's been rewarded with a great draw. I just want them to go out and show people how good a team they are on their day.

“We're under no illusions, it's going to be a massive, massive test, but it's one that they'll enjoy and one that I think they'll go out and put a wee show on.”

Although Belfast Celtic were first out of the hat yesterday and are technically the home team, they will play the tie at Larne's Inver Park as their own Glen Road Heights ground isn't fit for purpose. McAlorum isn't complaining, however.

“Listen, it's going to be a great day out for Belfast Celtic,” the former Glentoran star and Irish Cup winner added.

“In financial terms, hopefully Larne will bring a good crowd out, it'll help. At the end of the day, Irish Cup runs are all about bringing finances in. There's no bigger club on the up now than Larne. They've a great following too. Fingers crossed, we bring a good following too and it'll be a great occasion.

“I know the Larne set-up very well. Their set-up is second to none, they've a great surface and it'll suit both teams – Larne play a good footballing game and so do we. We like to get the ball down and pass it so, for a neutral to watch, I think it'll be a good one.”

One Celtic player, in particular, has already caught the eye this season, with former Antrim Gaelic footballer Matt Fitzpatrick recently agreeing to join Coleraine in January. While this rules their departing star forward out of the Larne game, McAlorum's side aren't short of experienced performers.

“We've plenty of Irish League experience through Mark Clarke, Brendan Shannon, Josh Lynch, Daniel Hanna and Darren Stewart who's actually ex-Larne, he helped Larne get into the Premiership, so there's a lot of pedigree of there,” he said.

“Gary Warwick has played about an awful lot, so we've a good experienced team who are well used to playing big games and it'll be a good test for us. It's one we're looking forward to.”

Sadler's Peak Blinder Irish Cup fifth round draw: Glenavon v Coleraine, Queen's University v Linfield, Ballyclare Comrades v H&W Welders, Knockbreda v Dergview, Warrenpoint Town v PSNI, Ballinamallard United v Dollingstown, Institute v Dungannon Swifts, Belfast Celtic v Larne, Ards v Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville v Hanover, Glentoran v Portadown, Banbridge Town v East Belfast, Ballymena United v Crumlin Star, Loughall v Rathfriland Rangers, Crusaders v Dundela, Newry City v Bangor

(Ties to be played on Saturday, January 4)

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