Glenavon fans may already be planning an Irish Cup semi-final date in April, but manager Gary Hamilton is approaching Saturday’s tie with Loughgall with cautious optimism.
The Lurgan Blues may be odds on favourites to see off the Championship 1 side, but Hamilton will hammer home the message very clearly to his players that any dip in form or underestimating the opposition could spell disaster.
“You see it in cup football all over the world when teams from a higher division take games like this lightly,” said Hamilton.
“That is our biggest threat to reaching the last four. We have experienced what can happen if we don’t adopt the right approach - cup exits to the Welders last year and Annagh United this season should show the players what can happen.
“On paper it appears easy, there are tougher draws but sometimes players enter the harder draws with a better focus. We have to ensure we go into the game prepared to battle and work very hard, just as if it was against Crusaders or Linfield.
“If we do, then hopefully our quality will allow us to create the chances and score the goals to get into the last four. It is a fantastic opportunity and if we make it then it is 50-50 in reaching another final. The players got a taste of what that was like in 2014 and it would be great for the club and fans to make another major final.”
Hamilton has been doing his homework on the opposition.
“We have been preparing the best we can and will work with the players at training on how we will do certain things on the day.”
Daniel Kearns missed the Linfield game with a groin strain and his fitness will be assessed this week.
“We left it up until the morning of the game last week before making a call on Daniel. He texted me to say he was still in pain and there is no way we could have put him in.
“If he is not 100 per cent we will not risk him against Loughgall. The last thing we want is to make his injury worse and lose him for six games. It would have been great to see him playing on the bigger pitch at Windsor, but it was not to be.
“We have a similar issue with Rhys Marshall and again it is important we do what is best for him long term.”
Saturday’s game at Mourneview Park is being sponsored by the late Mark Farren’s wife Terri Louise and Don Holmes of First Class Builders.
“Mark wanted to sponsor one of our games before the end of the season as a way of thanking Glenavon for their support during his illness,” added Hamilton.
“Sadly, he was unable to do that, but Terri Louise said she wanted to fulfil his wish because Glenavon did so much for Mark.”