Minnows relishing Bannsiders clash

By Alvin McCaigBBC Sport NI
Gary Haveron challenges Coleraine's Stephen Lowry while playing for Ballymena United last season
Gary Haveron challenges Coleraine's Stephen Lowry while playing for Ballymena United last season

Larne Tech Old Boys is not a name synonymous with the Irish Cup but this little club provides stories of glory and despair in local football's premier competition.

Paul Hardy, Director of Football at the Amateur League 1A outfit, was the hero for Ballymena United in 1989 by scoring the only goal to overcome Larne in the Oval final.

The memories are not so golden for captain Gary Haveron, who played in the losing Coleraine team against Glentoran in the 2004 decider.

Haveron will return to his old club on Saturday as Larne Tech go up against the Bannsiders in a fifth round encounter at the Showgrounds.

The amateurs started their Irish Cup quest on 17 September, beating Seagoe in the first round before knocking out Lisanally Rangers and Downpatrick.

A thumping 6-1 victory over Rathfriland Rangers at the weekend set up the meeting with Coleraine and it doesn't get much better for Old Boys joint-manager Stuart Pike.

"The Rathfriland game was our semi-final and we are treating the Coleraine tie like our final," said Pike.

"We had a four to five week lay-off before playing Rathfriland but the boys were on top of their game and were clinical.

"They knew how much it meant to both them and the club to make the fifth round.

"The place is buzzing and getting this far is also a reward for those behind the scenes, who have taken the club on leaps and bounds in the last few years."

Larne Tech's ranks include another former Coleraine player in Bertie Fulton while striker Damien McLaughlin had spells with Glentoran, Lisburn Distillery and Larne.

They are a team in form with Pike and Stephen Adair guiding the side to 11 wins in their last 12 outings.

But they face top-flight opposition on their own patch and boasting a record of 10 league games without defeat.

Linfield fan Pike recalls cheering on Coleraine boss Oran Kearney when he was a Windsor Park favourite.

Kearney has rejuvenated the Bannsiders since taking over 11 months ago, with the side sitting fourth in the Carling Premiership and through to the League Cup final.

"Coleraine are the form team in the country, they are very, very good," added Pike.

"They have quality players like Curtis Allen, David Scullion and Ryan McIlmoyle, and they will not let up for the 90 minutes.

"So we must up our game by 10 to 15 percent just to be able to compete with them.

"We have to disregard the ocassion and see it as 11 versus 11. Shocks happen but we must work hard, do our jobs and stick to our game plan."

Pike was reluctant to give a scoreline prediction, stating that he just wants Larne Tech to score a goal "and see where it takes us".

Picking out the scorer also proved a diffcult task, but Pike ruled out brother-in-law Haveron and the attacking talent at his disposal.

"All of our outfield players have scored this season so I'm going to go for our keeper Steven Mills."

If Tim Howard can do it......

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