Duke’s delight at progress of Thompson and Gibson with Regions’ Cup squad as Dollingstown continue to adjust

Dollingstown's Jordan Gibson and Richard Thompson on duty at the Regions' Cup.INLM40-100
Dollingstown's Jordan Gibson and Richard Thompson on duty at the Regions' Cup.INLM40-100

Gary Duke is calling on his players to avoid the distraction of the colour connected to Saturday’s NIFL Championship Two derby trip but instead focus on the black-and-white end product.

A first Lurgan derby in Championship history between Celtic and Dollingstown may prove a talking point but Duke wants to set aside any emotion in pursuit of the club’s practical targets.

“People are maybe making more of it as, from our viewpoint, the two clubs have different goals this season,” said Duke, the Dollingstown boss. “Celtic are pushing to be competitive at the top end of the table but our priority is to stabilise the club in our first Irish League campaign.

“With that in mind, we must look on every game as equally important as it is about putting points on the board as quickly as possible to meet our internal targets.

“We continue to strive for consistency and that will come as the players adjust to the Championship compared to Mid-Ulster football.

“However, I can see signs each week of that progress and have real faith in the ability within this squad to prove competitive as a Championship club.

“Overall, I have been delighted with the start made and no-one has outplayed us, plus I can see the players tighten up less as games go on.

“We had a free date last weekend but held a training session to try and keep everyone as sharp as possible.”

Duke had special praise for his two international representatives in the UEFA Regions’ Cup panel. Richard Thompson scored four goals in three games to help secure qualification for the Regions’ Cup finals.

“Richie Thompson and Jordan Gibson have done extremely well and should certainly benefit from the whole experience,” said Duke. “I won our version of that tournament twice as a player and loved it.

“Jordan is growing in confidence and has genuine talent.

“Richie always had the ability to perform at a higher level and it was just a matter of time before everything came to fruition.”

Kick-off will be 3pm.