Tiernan Lynch’s derby demand for Ballyclare Comrades tie after Larne ‘Big Two’ delight
If successive wins over traditional Irish League giants Linfield and Glentoran stand as a celebration of Larne’s bright future, a derby date at Ballyclare Comrades is very much a throwback to the past.
Kenny Bruce’s cash injection has helped to make wins over the ‘Big Two’ a reality along the route to establishing Larne as a major senior force.
This weekend’s trip to Dixon Park marks a different challenge to the previous two fixtures but one of equal importance to long-serving Larne supporters - so familiar with the historic rivalry - and manager Tiernan Lynch.
“We still have plenty of players at the club from last season’s Bluefin Sport Championship campaign so we go into the game aware of what to expect and what it means to the people around the club,” said Lynch. “The atmosphere at Dixon Park is sure to be great in front of a big crowd.
“The last two wins over Linfield and Glentoran have obviously been good for confidence and we feel we are starting to show our form.
“However, the only way we can go about our work is to focus on the next challenge and must display the same level of professionalism and focus against Ballyclare.
“We want to go into the game and prove ruthless in our work so we can build on those recent league wins.
“But we do not want to work in a way that puts those results apart, nothing has changed for us, we’ve not done anything yet and it is still about the process.
“Wins over Linfield and Glentoran stand as rewards but we want to continue moving forward and realise that in football, once you take your eye off the ball you can get punished.”
Paul Harbinson, Lynch’s opposite number, can recall facing Larne during his Irish League days as a player and understands the increased expectations the visitors must shoulder across the cup clash.
“Larne now stand as a massive club with full-time training and players coming over from across the water,” said Harbinson, in his first season as a senior Irish League manager having left a post with Ballymena United under 20s to take up the Comrades job. “As a player, it was always a tough game against Larne and I expect them to come here and prove competitive and certainly not to take us lightly.
“But there will also be that pressure on Larne and, put simply, they have to beat us.
“But we can go into the tie and use it as a marker of our own progress, this is a squad in transition but the club remain ambitious and when I joined in the summer we talked about a five-year plan.
“We stand basically months into that process and have put a lot of work into a culture and approach which has produced positives but one which remains in the early stages.”