Saturday 7th January 2017 only means one thing for Irish League fans Irish cup third round day . Glenavon are the current holders of the competition after they defeated Linfield 2-0 in last years show piece.
However it’s all beginning again almost an Irish League fans Christmas the tie of the round is undoubtedly at the Oval home of Glentoran as they take on Linfield it’s more than a grudge match in both of these clubs supporters eyes.
Linfield have gone trophy-less for five seasons now for Northern Ireland’s most successful team a surprise with what has been argued as possibly their best team of individuals since 2005.
As for Glentoran they have been struggling financially and with two managerial changes in Eddie Patterson and Alan Kernaghan have won two Irish cups in four seasons.
The key players to look out for in the tie are from Linfield somewhat the villain of the game Andrew Waterworth a fantastic goalscorer who left the East of the capital city Belfast where Glentoran are based to join up with Linfield.
Former Rangers striker and almost a celebrity in the league Nacho Novo lines up for Glentoran, Linfield lost 1-0 to Coleriane in midweek so no doubt David Healy will want a response but after Glentorans 5-0 victory over Portadown on Tuesday will we have a shock on the cards.
Cliftonville travel to Ballymena in another of the stand-out ties as two teams from the top flight go head to head, Cliftonville have gone through a sticky spell in the league of late drawing away to Glenavon after a humiliating 4-0 boxing day loss to rivals Crusaders.
Ballymenas fortunes have been turned around by the Irish Leagues most successful manager David Jeffery formerly of Linfield. Cliftonville have struggled to pick up positive results at the Ballymena Showgrounds in recent seasons so this tie is one to keep an eye on.
Key-men in this tie the key players are for Cliftonville striker David McDaid who has lacked service in recent games from the midfield ,as for Ballymena Gary Thompson is a key figure in midfield his job will to break down all the attacking play from the visitors.
In another all Danske Bank Premiership tie Coleriane go head to head with Carrick Rangers, Carrick Rangers go into the game of the back of a midweek stalemate away at Cliftonville a fantastic result for the club that call themselves the Amber Army, as for the Bannsiders Coleriane they won 1-0 at Windsor Park against title contenders Linfield.
The key-men Eoin Bradley an early January transfer window signing for Coleriane is the key man for them a striker who certainly knows where the back of the net is, Gary Lavery formally of Fleetwood and Cardiff City in midfield is Carricks star man an energetic player with a clinical edge.
Crusaders are the current Northern Irish champions they host Ards after both sides faced each-other in the week as Crusaders came away with a 4-2 winner after Ards had led 2-0 . Colin Nixon has recently appointed as Ards manager and he will have been encouraged at what he saw midweek .
Crusaders will go into this game undoubtedly the favourites after a good Christmas period that saw only Linfield beat them. Irish cup holders Glenavon play lower league opposition Portstewart in what should be a routine victory for the Lurgan Blues but as always with cup games you just never know what will happen.
In my final tie I have selected Lisburn Distillery one of Northern Ireland’s most successful clubs travel to Newforge lane to take on the PSNI, Distillery are in the Intermediate League while PSNI are one division above them in Championship One.
Distillery have won their last two fixtures over Queens University and Banbridge to move fifth in the league, the key men in this one are for PSNI former Distillery midfielder Darius Roohi one of the most promising midfielders in the country as for Distillery goalkeeper Tony Galbraith who will be made to work .