Result over renewal of old acquaintances as Niall Currie returns to Ards with Carrick Rangers

John Bailie (left) and Niall Currie during time together at Ards. Pic by Pacemaker.
John Bailie (left) and Niall Currie during time together at Ards. Pic by Pacemaker.

Having spent years side-by-side viewing fixtures from the same dugout perspective, Niall Currie and John Bailie will stand on opposite sides this weekend.

Currie returns to an Ards outfit with which he enjoyed many career highlights during around six years as boss.

Within his renewal of old acquaintances will be a reunion with Bailie - the current Ards manager who spent time alongside Currie at four different clubs down the decades.

Currie first met Bailie when both played for Bangor and added the coach to his backroom team during spells with Ards, Portadown and Carrick Rangers.

Both will aim to draw on that shared history in search of an upper hand - with each individual equally as keen to find the edge that could secure a sixth-round spot in the Irish Cup.

“John has Ards flying and they will be full of confidence going into the Irish Cup tie,” said Currie. “I have no doubt that John will do a good job at Ards.

“We were team-mates over 20 years ago at Bangor so I’ve known John a long, long time.

“I brought him in to join me at Ards, Portadown and Carrick Rangers and we know each other so well.

“I’m really looking forward to going back to Ards and catching up with some old friends.

“There are so many really good people connected to the club and I had six or so wonderful years with Ards.

“Of course, everything takes a backseat to the priority of winning the tie.

“Ultimately, it is not about two managers or anyone else, it all comes down to the players on the pitch.”

Currie can point to his managerial history aware of the opportunity to write another shock into the Irish Cup history books the role of underdog can provide. Carrick’s impressive return to the senior stage this season puts Currie and his players as favourites this weekend but it is an advantage he accepts can only be cemented on the field.

“Although we did not want it to happen at the time, going out of other cups earlier in the season maybe gave us the benefit of putting our full focus on league points,” said Currie. “But this in the Irish Cup, a special competition to everyone in the game and one we want to progress in as a club.

“We face Ards aware of the threat they provide as a dangerous opponent, a club doing well of late in the Championship but with a group of players with Premiership experience.

“We will give it the full works on behalf of Carrick Rangers and the demanding festive schedule may call on me to make a few changes but I want to field a really strong team.

“Across my career I’ve seen the dangers of cup football.

“Irish Cup day is always a big day for us.”