Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup quarter-final: H&W Welders v Larne (Friday, 7.45pm, live on BBC Sport NI)
LARNE boss Tiernan Lynch has praised for striker Paul O’Neill for giving him a welcome headache ahead of Friday night’s Irish Cup quarter-final away to H&W Welders.
The former Glentoran and Cliftonville striker enjoyed a fine first half of the season, with his partnership alongside Lee Bonis helping to fire Larne to the top of the table.
The arrival of Scottish frontman Andy Ryan in January saw O’Neill having to be more patient in recent weeks, more often than not coming off the bench.
He did exactly that away to derby rivals Carrick Rangers on Saturday and bagged two goals which proved to be the difference in a 3-2 win, maintaining their six-point lead at the top.
Attention turns to the Irish Cup on Friday night and Larne’s bid to book their spot in the last four and Lynch has no problems with having three strikers firing on all cylinders.
“To be honest, Paul has been unlucky in recent weeks,” Lynch said.
“He’s a fantastic kid and his work rate in training has been brilliant, so I’m delighted for him getting those two goals at Carrick last week.
“He works his backside off and it’s the same with Thomas Maguire. He just wants to play and it doesn’t matter where or how, they have a great appetite.
“We’ve got really healthy competition, which we’re really blessed by. February was a busy month in terms of games and we got to rotate things a little bit in the last two games.
“When we made changes it was like-for-like and that really helps us, so hopefully that helps to keep things fresh.”
The Invermen bid to make their third Irish Cup semi-final appearance in six years under Lynch tonight, but the Larne boss is taking nothing for granted.
It will be a big occasion for the Welders, who have already defeated Premiership sides Newry City and Glenavon in this season’s competition as their new Blanchflower Park venue hosting it’s first televised BBC game.
“We’re very single-minded in taking the next game as it comes,” he said.
“It’s the Welders now and we know they’re on a great run so there will be nothing which comes easy about this game, as you’d expect when you get to the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup.
“We go into every game trying to win it and Friday will be no different. Things don’t always go your way, but we’ll prepare for this game the same we would every other this season and see where it takes us.”
Larne are coming off the bench of a flawless February, where they bagged six wins from six outings. It has been a case of one game at a time so far, and Lynch isn’t about to change his mantra now.
He added: “I say the same thing every week and I’m sure people are sick listening to me, but this is a great bunch of players to work with.
“Saturday past was a bit of a test of character for them in having to come back to win at tricky venue in a derby game.
“I’m not sure we would have had that in us in past years, so it’s another test passed for them and speaks volumes for this group.”