Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders star Magowan has date with destiny

BY graham lunEY

David Magowan says Crusaders are hungry to beat Dungannon Swifts in Saturday’s JJB Sports Irish Cup semi-final — because they want to exorcise the demons of last season’s final.

The Crues lost 2-1 to Linfield in the showpiece decider last May, despite taking the lead through Declan Caddell’s second half-strike.

The 2009 cup winners thought their name was on the glittering prize once again until David Jeffrey’s side turned the tide with goals from Peter Thompson and Mark McAllister.

While the Blues celebrated another double, the north Belfast men found out what it feels like to lose an Irish Cup final.

The Belfast rivals could resume hostilities in another final this season but both will have to overcome semi-final hurdles and, for the Crues, that means conquering the Swifts at Mourneview Park.

Football can be a cruel game and Magowan’s Irish Cup story is a heartbreaking read.

He was suspended for the 2009 final against Cliftonville and last year he received the consolation of a runners-up medal.

And the tale of knockout woe continued when Magowan had to sit out the IRN-BRU Cup final win over Coleraine in January. The 28-year-old looked on from the bench as Chris Morrow netted the game’s only goal.

So, of all the players in the Irish League, Magowan deserves his day in the sun.

And he expects the painful memories of last season’s final defeat to drive the team onto glory this time round.

“People have talked about us being a good cup team but you always think back to the times when you came close, and getting beat in last year’s final will be in the players’ minds,” said ‘Mags’ who has made 317 appearances for the Crues.

“The guys are hungry to get those opportunities again and hopefully get another medal in their collection.

“The lads are going to have to be up for it because Dungannon Swifts have been doing well.

“They have struggled earlier on but they brought in a few players in January and I’m sure they will keep improving. It’s a semi-final and naturally it’s going to be a very tough game.”

The other semi-final between either Ballymena United or Newry

City and Linfield has been postponed while an eligibility row is resolved and Magowan is relieved to be on the other side of the draw.

“That’s a shame, it would be disappointing to have to wait for your game to get the go-ahead,” he added.

“But we have brought in a few young players into our squad and while the league form has been inconsistent, it’s always great to get into finals and semi-finals.

“Those younger players have stepped up and done really well this season.

“It gives Stevie (Baxter) a headache which is a good problem to have. It always makes the club attractive to other players and we have seen that with Gary McCutcheon coming on board.

“Hopefully we can keep it going and finish on a high. It’s probably the strongest squad I’ve seen here with like for like players coming in and doing brilliant.”

l The independent hearing into Ballymena United's expulsion from the Irish Cup will take place on Tuesday, with a QC expected to hear United’s appeal.

The Sky Blues defeated Newry City in the quarter-finals but were thrown out of the competition after an appeals board ruled that striker Alan Davidson had been ineligible for the game.

Meanwhile, Linfield have rewarded Brian McCaul, currentlyon loan at Glenavon, with a new two-year deal.

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