Several new boys helped Larne progress in the Intermediate Cup on Saturday, and the club has added more players to the growing squad ahead of another big Cup clash this weekend when Graham McConnell’s team try to do what Carrick Rangers couldn’t manage in the previous round by beating Lurgan Celtic.
Former Donegal Celtic pair Jim Haughey and Liam Conlon have put pen to paper, as has ex-Carrick Rangers centre-back, James Braniff.
“All three players featured in a practice game on Sunday afternoon against a Lisburn Distillery select team and they had participated as well in a couple of in-house trial games we had played in the last week or two,” revealed McConnell.
“Haughey and Conlon are both Belfast-based players and had been with Donegal Celtic, Conlon having just spent a year with Glasgow Celtic prior to joining DC.
“The experienced Darren McNamee, also latterly with the Suffolk Road team, has joined us on loan until the end of the season. Braniff has signed as well, not having played yet this season because of work commitments,” added McConnell.
How many of these new faces will feature on Saturday against the mid-Ulster team is a matter of conjecture. But what McConnell is sure about is that he is going into the match with a lot more knowledge of the opposition than Carrick Rangers did: they were not able to get a look at Lurgan Celtic ahead of their tie in December.
“We went to watch them in a free week over the Christmas period, and Tommy Phillips came with us and videoed the match. And Tommy also went to their Bob Radcliffe Cup Final against Loughgall on Boxing Day and made a DVD of that match as well. In addition to that, we have had some research done as well on them.
“Through injuries and suspensions, they didn’t have a full-strength team out the day we saw them against Knockbreda and, despite playing fairly well, they lost 3-0 but Knockbreda’s Hugh Sinclair told us afterwards not to be fooled by what we had seen. He says they are a lot better than what we witnessed and the other DVDs we’ve been viewing certainly backs that up.
“They have three or four high-quality players, one of whom played in the same junior international team as Paul Maguire, and they demonstrated in defeating Carrick that they thrive on the challenge of meeting teams from higher levels.
“We have enough experience of these situations to know we need to treat the opposition with respect. The recent games against Wakehurst and Shankill have taught us that they play football of a pretty good standard.
“The incentive is there for us to desperately want to win, the carrot being the possibility of what we had hoped for in this round – a home tie against a big name club. As I have said before, I am realist and I know that Larne will not be winning the Irish Cup this year. So, we want to get a chance to draw maybe the likes of Linfield or Cliftonville, should they get through.
“I’ll settle for a repeat of last weekend’s result which ended with Craig Todd heading what proved the worthy winner.
“Shankill came out in the second half and gave it a real go but, with our back four played really well and we won the game and kept a clean sheet as well,” added McConnell, who is excited about the way his team is performing right now and hopes that the good form will continue well into 2013 – starting in the Irish Cup clash at Inver Park.
Report by Kevin Hughes