Ballinamallard manager Harry McConkey is calling on the supporters to help carry his team to an historic cup semi-final win on Saturday.

The Mallards face Warrenpoint at Mourneview Park in the biggest cup game in their history, and the fans are set to travel in large numbers in anticipation of a victory that would take them to their first ever Irish Cup final.

“I want them to be as loud as they possibly can for a long as they possibly can,” said the manager.

“It is a fantastic occasion for our club to be involved in and I hope that we can get a performance from our players that will make the supporters proud on the day.

“It is lovely to hear that there will be a big crowd going. We do think we will have one of our biggest crowds, and that will be great for our players to see, especially the young players on the panel who I think benefit from it.

“The players have to give the supporters something to cheer about, but equally if there is the reverse of that then it can lift those players who are having a tough time or it’s not going their way on the day. That positive reinforcement from the sidelines keeps the belief.

“We hugely appreciate anyone that travels to Lurgan and gives us their time and I would love them to give us a really positive environment to play in, and hopefully we can all enjoy it together.”

Harry is in no doubt about the magnitude of task that lies ahead of his players on Saturday, and he hopes they will be inspired by the big stage and rise to the occasion.

“It is undoubtedly one of the biggest games the club has ever played in,” he acknowledged.

“We are in the last four of a competition with 126 teams, the top cup competition in the country. It is seen by everybody in football as the cup you would most like to win outside of the league title, but we must play the game and not the occasion.

“This is a wonderful occasion for our club and somewhere along the line, in among all of this anxiety of winning and losing, we have to be able to enjoy that we are there.

“I would love them to express themselves. We saw the way the youngsters of St Michael’s played in their final and it was a joy to watch and we would love that type of performance.

“We have a mix of senior players through the spine of the team. John Connolly, Richard Clarke, Ryan Campbell and Jay McCartney. All those lads have a lot of football under their belts and a lot of experiences and they will be revelling in the fact they are here at this stage of their careers, but equally they are so good at passing that experience on to the younger players and the players who haven’t done it yet.”

Every player in the squad will be hoping to play a full part in Saturday’s experience, but with a fully fit panel to choose from there will inevitably be some disappointed players when the squad is announced.

“I find that the hardest part of the job,” admitted Harry.

“We have seven subs in the Irish Cup and while that is a good thing for options from the bench and it’s great to be able to give 18 players the chance to contribute on the day, when I click the button and the team goes up on the screen, I know there are players going to be sitting feeling a little hurt they are not in there.

“I see an extra wee bit of pace in the boys training and even vocally they are louder and more vocal than before. I think now there is a realisation that they know there is a focus on what we have to do and it’s important they get as much right as they can. These boys deserve so much credit because some of them have had to wait patiently and they keep putting wonderful efforts in training. They help to keep raising the standards because of what they have done during the week and I think that is when you know you have a healthy training ground, when the players want to better themselves. That is the environment that I wanted to create.”

Harry has tasted Irish Cup semi-final defeat as a Ballymena player, losing out to Glenavon in 1992, but he is hoping that Saturday’s result will bring back memories of his coaching success with Dungannon, when victory over Cliftonville took them to the showpiece final.

“There is no doubt it was a painful experience to be so close,” he recalled. “I had been very fortunate to play in the Junior Cup final and the Intermediate cup final with Ballyclare Comrades and this was going to be a hat-trick. It didn’t happen, but I have been on the other side of it too. I know that feeling of getting to the final when I was coaching with Dungannon. That was a wonderful experience.”

Warrenpoint stand in the way of the Mallards first ever Irish Cup final, and their season has mirrored that of Ballinamallard in many ways. Both clubs had a difficult start to their campaigns, but have turned their form around. Warrenpoint come into the game with three wins from their last four matches. Their only defeat in that run was to league champions Crusaders, and on Saturday they emerged victorious at the home of title chasing Ballymena.

Harry and his backroom team of Craig Lynch and Steve Feeney were at that game, and have formulated a strategy to combat Warrenpoint.

“It will not be an easy task but clearly we will have a game plan based on what we have seen and the information we have gleaned,” said Harry.

“We did some very good work on Saturday and we will have to work on that in our training sessions and we will hopefully carry out the game plan on the day.

“On Saturday they toppled a very good Ballymena team but I think in that game they felt under no pressure, whereas Ballymena did. What came out of that showed you the importance of how players handle the pressure. There is no question that this time around they are the firm favourites and they are the IPL team. After a result like that they will be confident they will be able to handle us but I think the biggest chink in their armour will be what I call unconscious complacency. It’s not that anyone means to be complacent but there is something in the back of players’ minds that, no matter what the manager says, there is that little bit that feels that if they can overturn some of the IPL teams they have this season, then they can certainly overturn Ballinamallard.

“We will set ourselves up so that we will be difficult to break down, but we will be hoping to play as much as we can in their half of the pitch to try to expose them.”