Stage set for cup thriller with Linfield says Larne boss Lynch

Larne manager Tiarnan Lynch was delighted to hold onto Ronan Hale during the recent transfer window

Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup second round: Larne v Linfield (tonight, 7.45pm)

LARNE will host Linfield at Inver Park for the third time this season when the teams collide in the Irish Cup second round tonight.

The two sides renew hostilities less than a month after the Inver Reds emerged triumphant in the County Antrim Shield final over the Blues at Seaview.

It was a measure of revenge for Larne who lost out to Linfield 2-1 in the Irish Cup final last season and manager Tiarnan Lynch is expecting another entertaining game tonight.

“First and foremost, it is a game that we are all really looking forward to," said Lynch.

"It has the makings of a top game between two teams that want to try and play the right way. Under the lights, Irish Cup, it has all the ingredients and I just hope it lives up to its expectations and we can come out on the right end of it but it’s definitely one that we are looking forward to that’s for sure.”

Linfield have picked up four points from their two visits to Inver Park in the Danske Bank Premiership but relinquished their lead at the top of the table last weekend as they were beaten 3-0 in Coleraine.

Meanwhile, Larne ran out resounding 4-0 winners against Portadown with January signing Lee Bonis bagging a brace.

“He was a real handful which was great to see," said Lynch of Bonis's performance against his former club.

"He scored a couple of real striker’s goals and that’s something that we wouldn’t be renowned for and had been missing.”

"There is no doubt, no matter when you play Linfield, you are expecting a big challenge. They are also probably scathing a little bit after defeat to Coleraine last Saturday, but they aren’t things we get involved in too much. We have to concentrate on what we want to do.”

Perhaps more importantly, Larne held onto Ronan Hale who had been the subject of heavy speculation in relation to a move away from Inver Park during the transfer window.

“Ronan is a top young player and wasn’t someone that we wanted to let go,” explained the Larne boss.

“As I have told him before, he is a lad who has his best playing days in front of them, they aren’t behind him and we believe he hasn’t even come close to fulfilling his potential yet.

“He obviously got his head turned a little bit and we can’t blame him for that he’s a young lad but the window is closed and he is very much a Larne player. He trained yesterday, was superb in training and we are delighted that he is still with us.

Elsewhere, Lough 41 Championship leaders Newry City hosts Ards at the Newry Showgrounds (7.45pm).

City withdrew from last season’s competition but made it to the last 16 in 2020 and will face fellow second-tier outfit Ards who were reinstated into the competition after lodging a successful appeal against Dundela regarding the use of an ineligible player in the first round last month. Newry were 2-1 winners over neighbours Warrenpoint in the first round thanks to goals from James Teelan and Fra Brennan.

The hosts won 2-1 when these sides met in Newry back in August and have won back-to-back games to move eight points clear at the top of the Championship table.

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