Belfast Telegraph

Hegarty wants more special memories

By Adrian Rutherford

Ten years ago, Chris Hegarty watched from the stands as an excited fan as Dungannon Swifts came within a penalty kick of Irish Cup glory.

Now, the 24-year-old is hoping to lead his hometown club back to local football's biggest game.

The ex-Linfield defender will be aiming to thwart his former team as the sides do battle at Mourneview Park tomorrow for a place in the final.

For Hegarty the tie brings back memories of the 2007 showpiece, which the Swifts lost on penalties against the Blues.

"I was at the final myself 10 years ago, being a Dungannon fan," he said.

"It was a great day for the club and the town, and hopefully we can go back there again this season.

"There is a lot of hype around this weekend's game.

"Irish Cup semi-finals don't come around too often, especially for a club like Dungannon Swifts, and there is definitely a buzz around the town."

Hegarty, a former Dungannon youth player, previously played for Rangers.

He joined Linfield in 2014 after being released by the Glasgow club, but struggled to hold down a first-team place.

In January 2016, he returned to Dungannon on loan before making the move permanent in the summer.

Hegarty accepts the Swifts are underdogs against Linfield, but believes the tag counts for little in the Irish Cup. "Everyone knows that cup games come down to who turns up on the day," he said. "A wee bit of luck is involved. It's a game where all that matters is the result.

"We have a great squad at Dungannon and we will go out with belief that anything can happen on the day.

"We have shown this season that we can compete against the best.

"Our problems have come against the teams below us. Maybe it's a mindset thing. We aren't switched on.

"We have done well against the bigger sides so hopefully that goes in our favour on Saturday."

Hegarty is likely to partner David Armstrong in central defence tomorrow.

The pair will be tasked with shutting out a Linfield side that have scored more goals - 73 in the league - than anyone else.

The Blues scored four in both of their last two games against Dungannon.

Yet Hegarty sees no reason to fear David Healy's side.

"We have knuckled down more over the past couple of weeks," he added.

"Our training sessions have been good and there is a buzz about the club.

"Everyone is fighting for their place to be playing on Saturday, which is a good, healthy thing.

"The manager has given everyone a chance.

"Now it's down to whoever starts on Saturday to dig deep and see what happens.

"I don't think it's a game that anyone is afraid of."

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