Opinion: Reds will be all-too-familiar foes for cup-chasing Sky Blues
What would the chances be of drawing the same opposition in THREE different cup competitions?
Ballymena United supporters were certainly left with a feeling of deja vu after hearing the Sky Blues once again paired with Cliftonville in the sixth round of the Irish Cup, following in the footsteps of the County Antrim Shield quarter-final before Christmas and next week’s League Cup final.
Throw in the Charity Shield meeting at the start of August and a minimum of three league meetings and it’s little wonder the two sides will be sick of the sight of each other this season.
I was in Glenn Ferguson’s office, the manager having just finished post-match media duties, when the draw was made. There were inevitable groans among those present when ball number nine found themselves heading to Solitude.
That wasn’t a defeatist attitude, more a case of landing one of the teams you would have wanted to avoid at this stage but it was quickly pointed out that Ballymena won at Linfield at the same stage last year. As the old adage goes, if you want to win trophies, you have to beat the big teams at some stage.
At least Ballymena’s routine victory over Crumlin Star meant that they didn’t have to test the new ruling of Irish Cup games no longer going to replays. It has long been a source of confusion to me how Irish Cup fifth round, sixth round and quarter-finals could go to a second game, but semi-finals and finals of the same competition are decided on the day.
It actually makes for a better footballing spectacle and potentially more drama to have the game decided on the day because it gives a smaller team more chance of causing an upset as, invariably, the bigger club will prevail in a replay.
Yes, there is the loss of revenue for clubs with no replays but, contrary to popular belief in modern-day football, money shouldn’t dictate everything.
* Follow Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)