Ballyclare looking forward to Co Antrim Shield quarter-final

Ballyclare Comrades players are gearing up for a Co Antrim Shield quarter-final after defeating Queen’s University 3-1 in Round 1 of this season’s competition.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 8:23 pm

A first goal for Matthew Herron and an Andrew Mooney double saw the Comrades progress to the next round. Brendan Glackin found the net for the visitors during the tie at Dixon Park on September 21.

Speaking to the Times, manager, Paul Harbinson said: “We were absolutely delighted to get ourselves into the draw for the next round of the Shield.

“With such a heavy schedule at that point, we had to view it as an opportunity to give some players game time and also to help a few players get themselves back to fitness.

Andrew Mooney scored twice in the Co Antrim Shield win over Queen's. (Pic supplied by Ballyclare Comrades FC).

“Having made 10 changes to the starting 11 from the previous game (a 1-0 league win over Newry City on September 18), I was delighted with the work rate and efforts of the squad that night. We look forward to hearing who we will face in the next round.”

In what was a quick turnaround, the south Antrim outfit travelled to Clandeboye Park on Friday (September 24) to take on Ards. The Co Down side moved to the top of the Lough 41 NIFL Championship table with a 3-0 win over Ballyclare. Harbinson believes his players will put in a strong display when they return to action on Saturday when they travel to Castlederg to take on ninth-placed Dergview.

He explained: “The players themselves have been very open and honest about their disappointment in the individual and collective performance against Ards last weekend.

“We felt that we started the game quite well, but after a very short period, we dropped our standards and they looked more eager to win the battle.

“I’m blessed with a strong group of players who understand the needs of consistency at this level and I trust that they will be seeking to put the performance element right this week.”

With only eight points separating Ards at the top of the table on 19 and Knockbreda in tenth place on 11 points, the Ballyclare manager thinks the title race will go down to the wire this season.

He added: “I think its very evident that we have a fantastic product this year. Most managers I speak with feel that the quality hasn’t been there consistently every week for them ,but the players have missed competition so much that every week is so unpredictable.

“We had a terrible week from our own point of view, but after the results came in, we had only lost out on one point from the top of the table. It feels like it’s going to be that close for a long time and we are seeing the crowds grow from week to week as it continues to add excitement.

“I want to thank the local community for coming out to support us. The players feel that weight of support every week. This isn’t the same product that we see on our television screens for the Champions League- this is a much more unpredictable and exciting product and I would urge people to come and enjoy it.

“Having watched Newry pull away at the start and then have a spell of two or three games that didn’t go to plan and they’re right back in it shows that this is going to go all the way this year.

“I don’t think we’ll see anyone do what Larne or Portadown did in previous years. It’s going to continue to be exciting with teams taking points from each other regularly. We will just continue to focus on improvement and see where that takes us.”

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Larne and Ballyclare through to Co Antrim Shield quarter-finals

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