County Antrim Shield: Ballymena start defence against Welders

Ballymena won the County Antrim Shield for the second time in four seasons by beating Linfield in January
Ballymena won the County Antrim Shield for the second time in four seasons by beating Linfield in January

Ballymena United begin the defence of their County Antrim Shield crown against mid-table Championship side H&W Welders at the Showgrounds on Tuesday.

The Sky Blues beat Linfield 3-2 in last season's decider at Windsor Park.

The Welders saw off Glentoran in a penalty shoot-out at the Oval in the first round of last year's competition and will hope to cause another upset.

Cliftonville and Premier Intermediate side Bangor meet in a repeat of the 2015 final, which the Reds won 1-0.

County Antrim Shield preview

Ballymena and the Welders have met twice in the Irish Cup in recent seasons, with the Premiership side having emerged victorious from the ties on both occasions.

Elsewhere, league champions and leaders Crusaders travel to Inver Park to face Larne, who suffered an agonising extra-time defeat to Ballymena at the semi-final stage of the Shield last year.

Crues skipper Colin Coates expects his manager Stephen Baxter to field a strong line-up against the club who currently lie third in the Championship.

"We are out to win every trophy we are competing for this year. While the league is the main prize on offer and we have won it for the last two years, it would be nice to pick up a cup success too," said the Crusaders captain.

Glentoran demand success - Coyle

Linfield have home advantage against Donegal Celtic as they begin their bid to go one better than last year and deliver a first trophy triumph for manager David Healy.

Glentoran will hope to avoid another potentially embarrassing cup defeat when they travel to take on Ballyclare Comrades, having crashed out of the League Cup second round to Annagh United three weeks ago.

That result marked the end of Alan Kernaghan's managerial tenure at the Oval and Director of Football Roy Coyle will again take charge in a temporary capacity for the Shield encounter at Dixon Park.

Injury-hit Ards will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of their league defeat by Ballinamallard when they host Knockbreda, while struggling Carrick Rangers are at home to another Championship outfit, PSNI.

"Hopefully we can use this game to kick-start our season. It will be tough but we have to get back to winning ways," said Carrick boss Kieran Harding after watching his side go down 2-0 to Linfield on Saturday.

The only fixture not to feature a top-flight team sees Premier Intermediate club Newington play Albert Foundry of the Northern Amateur League Premier Division.

Toals County Antrim Shield - Tuesday 20 September, 19:45 BST
Ballymena UtdvH&W Welders
Carrick RangersvPSNI
Ballyclare ComradesvGlentoran
Linfield vDonegal Celtic
Larne vCrusaders
Newington FCvAlbert Foundry