The Setanta Cup draw, which took place in Stormont on Thursday evening, threw up a number of interesting ties with, arguably, the tie of the round pitting Shamrock Rovers against Oran Kearney’s high-flying Coleraine side.
Shamrock Rovers Chairman Jonathan Roche, who was present at the draw, was happy to be a playing a different opposition and eager to get the season underway to put last year’s disappointing campaign behind them.
“Speaking for the team and the coach we’re delighted to be getting back early and getting last season out of our system. We’re back training, already preparing, glad it’s a new team, someone we haven’t played already, particularly for the fans who will see a different team. We’re really looking forward to the competition.”
Coleraine’s manager Oran Kearney believes that taking part in the Setanta Cup can only benefit his young squads development as they seek to re-establish themselves as one the Irish League’s top teams.
“We’re over the moon to be in the competition. We narrowly missed out on Europe last year which would have been massive for our lads, but this is a close second, something with the same type of feel about it.”
The young boss is however, in no doubt about the size of the challenge that awaits them as they take on the Airtricity League Champions of 2011.
“It will be tough, hugely tough. We played in the competition maybe four years ago on the back of good league campaign but have been out of the top six since then. In the last year and a half we have made massive changes to the club, playing staff, backroom staff, and brought a new lease of life to the club, but a young lease of life.
“Portadown have just signed Gary Twigg and Linfield, Cliftonville and Crusaders have many seasoned pros and, I believe in our players, but we lack that experience. How do you get that experience? You play against teams like Shamrock Rovers in competitions like this and that’s where the learning takes place.”
St Patrick’s Athletic boss Liam Buckley, who drew Glentoran, was also delighted to be in the competition, maintaining that the carrot of becoming All-Ireland Champions meant that his side would be taking the Setanta Cup very seriously.
“The tie is part of our pre-season but it’s equally important to try and win these games because at the end of the day you’re All-Ireland Champions if you win it. Glentoran are fifth in the league, ten points off the top, very much in the mix for the European spots so we’re looking forward to the game and I’ve no doubt it will be a decent game.”
The two other games see Portadown travel to Drogheda United for the first leg and Cliftonville make the journey south to play Cork City. A quirk of fate in the draw means that all Airtricity League sides must play the second leg away in the first round of matches.
The ties will take place on Monday 11 February and 18 February 2013. The second leg date is subject to Irish Cup replays and the reserve date will be Tuesday, February 26.