Belfast Telegraph

Harpur dreams of leading Swifts back into Cup showpiece

By Adrian Rutherford

Ryan Harpur has said leading Dungannon Swifts out in an Irish Cup final would be the biggest day of his career. The midfielder will captain the Tyrone side as they aim to shock Linfield in Saturday's semi-finals.

It is a repeat of the 2007 decider - the only time Dungannon have reached a major final - and Harpur is desperate for a second shot at glory after the club's defeat 10 years ago.

"It would be unbelievable for the club to get to another final -it would be absolutely brilliant," the 28-year-old said. "It would be the biggest day of my footballing career to get into an Irish Cup final with Dungannon.

"Nobody is saying it is going to be easy, but we are quietly confident that we can win the tie."

Only once since 2007 have Dungannon reached the Irish Cup semi-finals. That was five years ago when they were defeated by Crusaders, who lost out to Linfield in the final.

It was also the last time the Blues - 42-time Irish Cup winners - lifted the famous trophy.

Harpur said: "Obviously it's a long time since we have played at that level. It was five years ago that we last played in a semi-final and we lost 1-0 that day, so hopefully this time is different."

Dungannon have beaten Dergview, Dollingstown and, most recently, Warrenpoint Town to reach this stage. But a semi-final against Linfield represents a serious step up in class.

"You have to play one of the top teams sooner or later," said Harpur. "I actually think it is a good tie. The boys will be up for it. If we aren't up for playing one of the best teams in the country in an Irish Cup semi-final then there's something wrong.

"We know if we perform we will give them a really good game, so it is up to us to turn up on the day. We are quietly confident that if we play well we can cause an upset."

The venue is Mourneview Park, and Harpur is expecting a frenzied atmosphere.

"It's a great setting for a big game," he said. "There will be a big crowd which will add to the atmosphere. It should be a great tie. It's down to us as a team to turn up and make a game of it."

Harpur was one of several key players left out of last weekend's 1-0 win at Portadown.

After all the build-up - plus three league games to negotiate since the quarter-final - he is relieved to finally be able to focus on what has become a season-defining game.

"It can be difficult to stay focused - anyone who says different probably isn't being totally honest," he added.

"You always have half an eye on what's coming ahead.

"I think it showed on Saturday, in terms of the team that we played, that we had one eye on the semi-final."

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