THE PROSPECT of ringing in the New Year with jubilant cup celebrations is the last thing on the mind of Strabane Athletic manager Eamon Curry as he readies his troops for a Northern Ireland Intermediate League Cup semi-final clash with Trojans this coming weekend, following Saturday’s postponement.
The North West showpiece decider has been pencilled in for Saturday, December 30 where this coming Saturday’s winners will meet either Maiden City or Oxford United Stars.
Before that Curry and company have to see off the very real challenge of Derry outfit, Trojans, who a few weeks ago Athletic defeated 4-0 in a league game.
Strabane are sitting second in the NI Intermediate League and in six games have yet to concede a goal from open play.
For Trojans it’s been something of a mixed bag and on paper the North Tyrone men will start as firm favourites to advance on Saturday.
Curry, though, is too long in the tooth to realise that his team face anything other than a battle to death in the last-four encounter.
“We know how tough it’s going to be and my players, not that they need to be, will be well warned just how difficult a game it’s going to be,” said the former Tyrone Milk Cup coach.
“No-one will be reading anything into the league game, they had two men sent off and we scored three early goals.
“Strabane teams have been bitten in the past and, anyway, every game is a new game. It starts 0-0 and we know what we have to do.
“We approach every game with a clean slate and Saturday will be no different. We’ll work hard, we have our systems of play and that has been coming together nicely because we have been getting fantastic numbers at training.”
Athletic go into Saturday’s eagerly-awaited tie without the suspended Mickey Logue, who scored Saturday’s winner against Dungiven, Aaron O’Hagan (ankle injury); Oran McShane and Dylan Peoples. That obviously won’t help the Strabane cause but Curry is confident that he has the strength in depth to deal with most eventualities.
He, too, believes reaching the final would help focus his players over the festive period.
“For me Christmas can be a dangerous time of the year. Boys work extra shifts, its party season, there are family gatherings and, of course, any amount of Premier League soccer to distract players,” he added.
“A final on December 30 would help keep the players engaged and that would tie us over to the new year when the league resumes.
“This is a young group of players and winning a trophy would be fantastic for them but first and foremost their is a job to be done against Trojans.”
*The semi-final was scheduled to take place on Saturday past, but was postponed due to the wintry conditions. It has been rearranged for Oakland Park, Derry, with a 1.30pm kick-off this coming Saturday.