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Scott Young: Linfield will deliver first trophy for David Healy

By Scott Young

Published 12/01/2016

Gutted: Paul Smyth must sit out the Shield final
Gutted: Paul Smyth must sit out the Shield final

I'll put my cards on the table and say I cannot see Ballymena United stopping the Linfield juggernaut. We might have been saying something different six weeks ago, but the force is with the Blues and that momentum should carry them over the line in tonight's County Antrim Shield final.

Linfield deserve massive credit for hauling themselves back into the title race.

They have been on an incredible run and despite being a man down in extra-time against United on Saturday, they saw the job through.

They are on a roll and manager David Healy will be desperate to win his first trophy.

Roy Coyle always looks back fondly on his first trophy win as Linfield manager - which, coincidentally, was the Shield - and it could be a similar experience for Healy.

At Linfield you are judged on honours. Jeffrey has always said trophies win contracts - and he is referring to Irish Cups and league medals.

The Shield may not be the most prestigious prize in Irish League football but it's still a senior trophy and you have to beat the top teams to win it.

If the Blues can win this prize their confidence will be sky high and they'll be thinking 'keep the pressure on Crusaders and Cliftonville in the league as they will drop points'.

Linfield's form tells us the manager and backroom staff are making the right calls and victory tonight could be the springboard to even bigger things, but football is a funny game as we know and if United can grab a win, many of us will not be shocked.

Things can change quickly in this game and just when you think you have mastered it, it can bite you where it hurts.

Linfield haven't achieved anything yet and Healy will remind his players of that. If the Blues take their eye off the ball they will be punished.

A manager's first trophy win is always special. Mine was surreal as it was the late Alan McDonald's team when, a few weeks after I had taken the job, the Glens beat Coleraine on penalty kicks in the League Cup decider.

But that was big Alan's team and I couldn't take any plaudits. I counted our 3-1 win over Linfield at Windsor in the Shield decider as my first trophy as boss. We had a few injuries and a lot of the pitch was covered in ice but it went ahead and Andy Waterworth scored one of our goals.

If Andy can shake off an injury for this one he won't have young Paul Smyth, who is suspended, alongside him and I'm gutted for the young man.

Paul was a bit naive and rash on Saturday and the reality that he will not make this final is a tough learning experience for him.

It's a huge price to pay for two rash challenges - he would have been dreaming of scoring the winner - but it's a learning curve for the boy and perhaps his eagerness got the better of him, but Paul will learn and he's just a young kid, he will get many more chances to play in finals.

Johnny Taylor is also out for United and I think he's a bigger loss as he has been a rock for them while Linfield can bring in Guy Bates.

United have been progressing to finals and their managerial team deserve huge credit but they must find a way to win them - just beat Linfield, it's that simple!

Crues king Owens deserves applause

Huge congratulations to Jordan Owens on becoming Crusaders’ leading goalscorer. Big Jordan is on 158 strikes, one ahead of Glenn Hunter, and he’s a big and strong centre forward that Irish League defences hate playing against.

I’m sure that with the right guidance and full-time training, Jordan could have played in the lower half of the Scottish Premier League and I know that when I was Glentoran manager I would have loved to have had guys like him and Colin Coates in my side.

But Jordan has been loyal to the Crues and he’s won every trophy.

He also has one Northern Ireland cap and there aren’t too many Irish League players who can say that. We should all be saluting this Crusaders legend.

Irish Cup clashes are great without replays

There are no replays in the Irish Cup tournament and I think that’s the right call.

We are talking about a part-time league and when there is fixture congestion the demands on the players can be intense — and then the product can suffer.

Our guys have jobs and especially at a time when matches are being called off because of the weather, it’s important the ties are settled on the day.

It’s also more exciting for the fans because they know that one team must go out.

The sixth round draw was kind to Linfield and Cliftonville but it’s difficult to predict a winner.

Not many of us would have expected Glentoran to win it twice in three years!

Belfast Telegraph

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