TOMMY Wright last night warned his Ballymena United players: Don't be this week's cup fall guys.
The Showgrounds boss watched last weekend's FA and Scottish Cup ties with interest as he began preparations for the Sky Blues' tilt at Nationwide Irish Cup glory.
United will be hot favourites to progress to the sixth round as they on Amateur League Kilmore Rec at the Showgrounds (3pm) – but Wright has warned his players to take nothing for granted.
"On Sunday I watched Clyde beat Celtic, Burton Albion draw with Man United and Leicester beat Tottenham, so no-one can tell me that upsets don't happen in cup football," Wright told Times Sport.
"All it takes is for the lower-ranked team to perform above themselves and for the favourites to under-perform and anything can happen.
"Anyway, if there's one team Ballymena people shouldn't under-estimate it's Kilmore after last year," added Tommy, a reference to the Sky Blues' – then under Kenny Shiels' management – infamous County Antrim Shield defeat by the Crossgar-based minnows.
Wright had Kilmore watched on Saturday as they defeated Albert Foundry 2-0 and has noted that the Amateur League side have several changes in playing personnel, as well as a new manager in former Glentoran defender Seamus Heath.
"I always say that the league is what you're judged on but for this week the Irish Cup becomes our number one priority.
"I good cup run is important for a number of reasons – breeding confidence, financial rewards and a shot at glory for teams who aren't in a position to challenge for the title – so we want to go as far as we can in it."
Striker Rory Hamill – linked in some weekend press reports with a move to Portadown, with midfielder Paddy Quinn coming the other way – will resume training this week after a hamstring strain and should be added to the panel.
English midfielder Phil Charnock, whose future is expected to be determined this week, is also available after a gashed knee but he is expected to play for the Reserves at Newry to gain match fitness.
Wright also reports that he has received two enquiries from first division clubs for defender/midfielder Dean Youle, who has been made available to other clubs, either on loan or on a permanent basis.