Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Glenavon v Ballymena United Irish Cup final a triumph

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Glenavon celebrate after winning the Irish Cup
Glenavon celebrate after winning the Irish Cup

The spirit of Lazarus is alive and well in the body of Glenavon FC and the dear, old Irish Cup Final. To the bearded victor went the spoils as Gary Hamilton led his boyhood club to their first major trophy since 1997.

By the same token, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the role of his Ballymena managerial contemporary, Glenn Ferguson, and both sets of fans for the passion, colour and atmosphere they brought to the Windsor Park party.

The oft-criticised Irish FA could not be faulted for their efforts on the day to successfully make the season's showpiece a pageant to be proud of. They could do better with their ticketing arrangements next year by finding a way to accommodate neutrals but on the credit side they are to be applauded also for awarding the cup final naming rights, in the absence of a title sponsor, to Marie Curie Cancer Care who must have done well, given the renowned generosity of football fans when confronted with a plastic bucket.

Above all, Saturday's Irish Cup Final was a triumph for belief. Of 8,000 fans who backed their local teams to the hilt. Of progressive regimes at the two clubs for showing faith in their fledgling managers; Glenavon especially in taking what many regarded as a gamble on that reconstituted raker, turned club reincarnator, Gary Hamilton, whose credentials as a serious football manager are now firmly established.

Collectively they showed Irish League football is not a lost cause. On the contrary, as the interest, live BBC coverage and acres of newsprint proved, when properly marketed and presented, it is an extremely attractive,enduring product.

There are many reasons to believe in Irish League football. So why doesn't an Irish Cup sponsor come forward to share that belief?

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