NIALL Currie’s childhood memories of Shamrock Park include visits to games with his father.
In 2009, as manager of Loughgall, he could only watch helpless on the sidelines as the Ports recorded a 5-0 victory in the Irish Cup.
Tomorrow (Saturday) the former top-flight goalkeeper will bring his high-flying Ards side to the Brownstown Road venue aiming to claim the Irish Cup scalp of his boyhood club.
“I was born-and-bred in Portadown and it will always be my team,” said Currie. “However, my job as Ards manager this weekend is to knock Portadown out of the Irish Cup.
“It is going to be exciting for everyone connected to Ards and something of a win-win scenario for the players.
“I just want the club’s supporters and officials to enjoy the occasion and the players to express themselves and come off the pitch free of regrets.
“On a personal level, I have cheered Portadown to cup wins in the past and seen Ronnie McFall build some great sides.
“It is an opportunity to go up against a legend and pit my wits against a really successful manager.
“It will also be a nice occasion for my family and friends as they watch me manage a side at Shamrock Park.
“We will go into the tie in a positive viewpoint and aim to get the most possible out of the day.
“I took on the job of Ards manager over a year ago because I was excited by the challenge and tradition of such a great Irish League club.
“We have a brilliant group of people running the club and my remit from day one was only to put Ards in a position to challenge.
“We have basically assembled a fresh squad of players, although everyone is working really hard and we sit in a good position in IFA Championship 1 but with plenty of football left to play.”
Portadown-born Andy Smith will miss the match due to suspension. Another connection to the area in the Ards camp is Annaghmore’s Jay Willis, who operates as Currie’s assistant.
Both Smith and Willis were key parts of the Loughgall panel that enjoyed a league ‘double’ over Portadown during the IFA Championship campaign of 2008/09. That same season also featured Portadown’s 5-0 victory at Shamrock Park in the Irish Cup.
“That 5-0 game was actually my last time at Shamrock Park as a rival manager,” said Currie. “The two league wins that season provided some brilliant moments but came thanks to amazing individual performances, superb teamwork and below-par displays by Portadown players.
“Reality kicked in a few weeks after the second league win when we went to Shamrock Park in the Irish Cup and conceded five as Portadown clicked.
“We have put together a side to prove competitive at IFA Championship 1 level and go into this weekend’s game missing some important players.
“We accept that Portadown must have an off-day and we need everyone to perform at peak level.
“However, we also go into the game determined to do our best.”