TONIGHT we welcome Coleraine FC to Inver Park for our much eagerly anticipated Tennent’s Irish Cup quarter final tie. I’d like to extend my welcome to our visitors from the North West, most notably their directors, management, players, staff and supporters, and I wish them an enjoyable visit to Larne.
Having worked, lived and socialised in the triangle area for the best part of 30 years, I have a great affiliation and strong connection with many of the ‘Bannsiders’ travelling to the game. The banter at work over the last few weeks has been good, but the stick I’ve taken socially over the past eighteen months has been even better. Everyone knows the drill tonight, the gloves are off, may the best team win and I just hope I’m smiling at the end of the night!
It is quite surreal writing this and welcoming ‘live’ BBC cameras to Inver Park for the first time in our history. Yes, it was always in our plan, it may have arrived a little earlier than expected though,but like everything that has come our way since Kenny Bruce got involved, we have embraced the challenge, risen to it and I’d like to think we have delivered.
In little over ten days we have poured 200 cube of concrete, fitted 700+ seats, fitted lighting on the Riverside walkway to the Bleach Green End, had countless meetings with planners, contactors, BBC, PSNI and local authority to ensure we got this ‘show on the road’. Not a bad effort, and my thanks go to everyone who has worked around the clock to make it happen.
We could easily have sat back and let the project develop along the agreed pathway, but our reasoning for digging so deep was twofold.
The first was selfish, we want the ‘improved’ Inver Park to be seen at it’s best by the viewing public and all our ex-pats. Delivering a best in class surface and floodlighting is all well and good, but we all know atmosphere makes a game by helping lift the players performances to the next level, so number two was, we needed to accommodate as many visiting fans as safely possible to ensure that happened.
I think we’ve done our best on both fronts, I hope the BBC get the spectacle they deserve, and that both clubs showcase the best that NIFL and the IFA bring to the local game.
I have talked before about the romance of the Tennent’s Irish Cup and it being the blue riband club competition in Northern Ireland. The games and opportunities it has thrown up for the two Larne clubs over the next few days fully back this up and bear testament to that old ‘magic of the cup’ saying.
The majority of supporters inside Inver tonight will hope the result goes in the underdogs favour, and won’t need reminding how we felt after our semi-final reversal last year. I’d urge you to get behind the players from the start, in the hope that we can avenge this result and enjoy another opportunity to make the showcase day out in May.
Like many Inver Reds I’ll be on the road to South Down on Saturday to support our neighbours from Denis Harvey Park, as the Tech take on Warrenpoint Town. I know many of the boys in ‘Red & Green’ will be with us on Friday night, you have done both your club and our town proud in getting to the last eight. My message is simple, leave nothing out there and see where it takes you. No regrets…WWWW
All that remains is for me to thank our match sponsor, who is with us for each and every cup tie this season My Home Move, our match ball sponsor who are Larne Athletics Club. We are also grateful to The Curran Court Hotel, Graham’s Pizza and Classic Drinks for their continued support throughout the year.
Let’s make Inver LOUD and PROUD!