Nortel manager Paul Foy says he’s ‘not counting any chickens’ as he prepares his side for Saturday’s Clarence Cup third-round tie away to 2c side Finaghy at Weddersburn Park.
“We’re six divisions above them but anything can happen in a Cup match and for them, it’s their final,” he said. “We certainly won’t be underestimating them, especially as they’ve got some players who have performed at a higher level, such as the Hawthorne twins at Islandmagee and a midfielder who was with Downpatrick.
“We hear they’re a big, physical outfit, so it could be a battle.
“In the last round, I mixed it up and brought some young ones in when we beat Rooftop 11-1, but that was on our own ground and we knew we could play our football. We don’t know what Finaghy’s ground is going to be like; they beat Shorts up there in the last round, so I might need to go up there with a team that can match them physically.”
Nortel have been at the Factory Grounds in their previous two rounds, against 1b side Ballynahinch United (4-1) and then that 11-1 romp against 2b’s bottom side, Rooftop.
Larne Tech Old Boys, meanwhile, have made it through to round three with victories over two Division 2 sides, Kircubbin of 2a (1-0) and then 2b outfit, Newtownbreda (3-2).
The Tech enjoy home comfort for the third round in a row, where the visitors are Orangefield Old Boys. They are just one point below them in 1a (not taking into account the Larne boys’ possible nine-point deduction). The two sides have met twice this season in the league; the Tech 3-2 winners at the Cregagh Sports Club before enjoying a 2-1 victory at Dennis Harvey Park at the end of November.
The Tech will be missing two of their goalscorers from that success at Orangefield, long-term injury victim Rab Hunter - the man whose penalty set them on their way back in November, while goalkeeper Chris Keenan has rejoined Larne.
After Hunter’s injury, Keenan had taken over the captaincy. “He will be missed though we wish him all the best back at Larne, “ said Tech boss Johnny Hastings. “Everyone knows he’s a quality keeper. Young Jackie Wallace will be now get his chance, and he did really well for us at the start of the season when Steven Mills was injured – and we’ve also got young Mark Burke. Jackie had done little wrong, but we had the chance of getting Keenan back after he was transfer-listed by Larne and you can’t turn down players of that calibre - even though we always knew there was a chance he would go back.”
Missing on Saturday will be midfielder Jack Wharry, with a recurrence of a knee injury, but, apart from long-term casualties such as Hunter and William Magill, the Larne lads should have a full panel to pick from.
Also in Clarence Cup action on Saturday, albeit one round behind Nortel and the Tech, is 18th Newtownabbey Old Boys. They travel to Greyabbey to meet the current 2a pacesetters Rosemount Rec.
The Monkstown side came out of the hat first, but after two successive postponements due to Cloyne Crescent being waterlogged, they’ve had to forgo home advantage and travel to Islandview Road Playing Fields.