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Setting the Barr

Barry Gray has told his players to embrace the occasion as they bid to etch Cliftonville’s name on the Tennent’s Irish Cup this afternoon.

The Reds take on Coleraine in an eagerly-anticipated Windsor Park showdown that the Manager is happy to be hyped up and, though he will be reminding his troops to treat the game like any other once the action gets underway, says it’s understandable for people to get caught up in the excitement surrounding the day.

“You can’t shy away from the fact that it’s different from a normal match – it’s the Irish Cup Final and this is what it’s all about,” says Gray.

“When the whistle blows, the game of football is the same and that’s when people need to fully focus on gameplans and doing their jobs. Everything else that goes along with the build-up is great to be part of and there’s no point trying to escape it because it’s the sort of thing you should embrace.

“In terms of enjoying the day, you only do that when the Cup is won. All of the excitement in the last few days and weeks don’t count for anything when the match starts – the challenge is there and you have to go out and meet it.”

More than once this season, Gray has hailed the contribution of the Red Army and believes they can play a typically passionate role today.

“The way our players and supporters feed off one another has been very special and they can inspire eachother again today,” he adds.

“We know when we walk out there, that roar is going to be there. The supporters will be with us from the start and we need to give them something to keep believing in and they’ll keep driving us on.”