Northern Irish football returns to the Irish Cup this weekend. After a keenly contested round of Quarter-Finals, it is Glenavon, Coleraine, Linfield and Dungannon Swifts who will compete for a place in the showpiece Final.
The winners of the Irish Cup will qualify for next season’s Europa League. If the winners have already qualified for Europe via their league position, by finishing 1st or 2nd, then the team in 3rd place in the league will take the Europa League qualification spot.
Linfield v Dungannon Swifts 1st April 15:00 at Mourneview Park
Linfield undoubtedly have the upper hand in this tie in terms of history as they hold a record of 42 Irish Cup wins and 21 Runner Up places. The Blues come into this fixture on the back of a good run with 12 wins and a draw in their last 13 games. They will certainly still have one eye on their pursuit of Crusaders in the league title race but will relish the chance to potentially meet Glenavon in the final and get revenge on their Lurgan counterparts after losing last season’s final.
Dungannon will be looking to reach just their second final in Irish Cup history. Their first, incidentally, ended in a loss on penalties to this weekend’s opposition Linfield. Dungannon will look to Andrew Mitchell to fire them to the final here, the Glenavon-bound striker is currently the top scorer in the league on 22 goals. Dungannon also have a focus in the league with trying to ensure they qualify for the Europa League playoff by finishing in 7th place.
Glenavon v Coleraine 1st April 17:15 at Ballymena Showgrounds
Glenavon progressed to the semi-final thanks to an indulgent thumping of Mid-Ulster rivals Portadown at Shamrock Park. Glenavon are the current Irish Cup champions are defeating Linfield 2-0 in last season’s final. The Lurgan Blues have underperformed this season and find themselves lingering in 6th place in the league. Setting themselves up for a second successive Irish Cup final would almost certainly turn this season around for them. Glenavon have a previous 7 Irish Cup wins to their name while managing to finish Runner-Up on 10 occasions.
Coleraine also recorded a Quarter Final victory over local rivals as they struck 4 past Ballymena without reply at this very stadium. Coleraine have excelled this season, managing to propel themselves to 3rd place in the league. The Bannsiders will be looking for their first Irish Cup final appearance since a 2-1 loss to Linfield in 2008. Coleraine’s last Irish Cup final victory came in 2003 and it was their 5th Irish Cup title, the club have also been beaten finalists on 6 occasions.