Ian Callender, 10 June 2001
Ireland's three Cliftonville internationals should have at least one cup tie to look forward to on their return from the ICC Trophy in Canada by beating Lisburn at Wallace Park the day before they go while Dublin's two strongest teams have got home advantage. Merrion, after their defeat of Phoenix in Saturday's third round will play The Hills and North County who rattled up 285 against Strabane at the weekend, will meet Malahide.
The improving North County are now in unknown territory, they have been dismissed in the third round for the last two years but their all round strength will make them favourites against Malahide who after successive semi final appearances in 1993 and 1994 have been early round losers ever since. Merrion are in the quarter finals for the third year in a row and unless Mark Clinton is fit for The Hills they will expect to be in the semi-finals for only the second time.
Cliftonville have lost all three of their previous quarter finals but they must believe that this is the year to end that sequence, especially as Lisburn's history in the competition is little better. This is only their third quarter final and in their previous all-NCU tie at this stage they lost to Downpatrick, in 1991. That was the last time Downpatrick won the Irish Cup but it is only two years since they last played at Beechgrove. Brigade won that match by 13 runs on their way to winning the trophy so they will be hoping that is a lucky omen.