Carrick's focus turns to survival after League Cup heroics
AARON CALLAGHAN insists his history-making Carrick Rangers side must forget about their League Cup heroics and focus on climbing out of the Danske Bank Premiership relegation zone.
Tiernan McNicholl cemented his place in Carrick Rangers’ history books with a late winning goal against Glenavon at Mourneview to send Callaghan’s men into a first ever League Cup Final where they will meet Ballymena United on February 18th.
However, the midfielder must sit out Saturday’s league encounter with his parent club, Cliftonville due to the club’s loan agreement as they quickly come back down to earth with a difficult clash against the Reds.
And Callaghan maintains his side must put any thoughts of that Cup Final out of their minds if they are to get out of trouble at the bottom of the league table.
“The cup final isn’t until February so that’s not of interest to me now,” said Callaghan. “They’ve set standards for themselves which we asked them to do prior to the game and we want them to continue that because at the end of the day we’re still in the relegation zone and we need to make sure we try and get out of that. It’s going to be difficult because of the nature of the league.
“They will enjoy the cup final when it comes around but we have more important things to think about in the next four or five games.”
The Dubliner, who won league titles with Crusaders in 1995 and 1997, was appointed Carrick boss after Kieran Harding’s departure following a run of seven of their opening nine league matches.
Callaghan felt Carrick had lost their identity during that dismal start to the campaign and he’s delighted to see his players turn their fortunes around.
“I went up to watch a couple of games prior to getting the job and I just thought they lost their identity a little bit,” said the Carrick boss.
“They’ve now got their identity back now in bucket loads. I said to the lads they shouldn’t fear anyone. Once you give 110 per cent out in that park, that’s what the fans want to see.
“Having lost seven or eight games in a row it was a difficult place to come in to. My enthusiasm as a player and energy as a manager along with the backroom staff, we’ve got them enjoying training first and foremost and they’re putting in them performances from the training ground.
“The one challenge I had when I came to the club was to start putting smiles back on people’s faces and I think I’ve done that.
“But credit to the boys who I felt were absolutely brilliant and they deserve that because it’s been a difficult year for them.”
Carrick are currently in 11th spot in the league, level on points with Ballinamallard who have a game in hand over Callaghan’s troops. And they face a difficult task getting something from Saturday’s fixture when they host third placed, Cliftonville.
“It’s going to be a difficult game,” agreed Callaghan. “They’re playing well. We can only prepare for that on Thursday because we have a few walking wounded in there. There’s a few with eye cuts and there’s a few lads off. Marty Murray is only coming back from an injury as well.
“We’ll let the lads settle down tomorrow (Wednesday), get some ice baths and we’ll turn up to training on Thursday and we’ll prepare like we do for any game. The analysis we do on every team is top notch. The boys are training really, really hard since we came in and I think tonight shows the fitness levels have definitely improved.
“We’ve got one or two lads waiting in the wings and one or two back from injury but we are very tight squad wise and had to give a 17 year old his debut against Linfield.
“I love promoting young players particularly if they show desire. So we’ll assess the situation on Thursday and prepare for a very tough game on Saturday.”