Every season Ballyclare fans yearn for a trip to Seaview on Christmas morning to cheer on the Comrades in the final of the Steel and Sons Cup, but this year the Reds might have difficulty surmounting the first hurdle.
With upwards of 100 teams entering what is regarded as the blue riband of intermediate football, the odds are stacked in favour of being paired with one of the also-rans in the earlier rounds. But this time the PSNI-Comrades tie is the only all-Championship 1 first-round clash.
With Jamesy Kirk now at the helm at Newforge, Eddie Hill’s men can be sure of a hot reception when they arrive there on Saturday afternoon.
Kirk cut his managerial teeth at Dixon Park and will be using all his experience to end the hopes of his hometown team.
“Jamesy knows all about winning trophies and I have great respect for him, having played under him with the Comrades,” said Hill.
“The last time we played PSNI two years ago we were both in Championship 2 and we won both league fixtures (2-1 and 5-1). At that time Jamesy was their assistant-manager.
“Since then he has taken over the reins and he has his own stamp on the squad. With home advantage they will fancy their chances.”
Quizzed about the Comrades’ defeat to Larne, Hill made it clear he was far from happy with Saturday’s 4-1 thrashing.
“We were abysmal,” he fumed. “I was absolutely furious with our display, with not one player emerging with any credit.
“Afterwards I analysed the skills of both teams, man for man. We matched Larne in every department, but we lacked commitment.
“They were hungrier for the ball, winning all the breakdowns, so that Chris Trussell, who is regarded as one of the top strikers in the league, rarely got a touch of the ball.”
“We were woeful and I hope we will get the defeat out of our system, and be ready to go to Newforge with all guns blazing,” he blasted.
Assessing PSNI, Hill acknowledged that being no longer a club confined to police staff, they can now cast the recruitment net much wider.
“Jamesy has signed some talented young players and we will have to play with fire in our bellies to keep our Steel Cup hopes alive,” he added.