Belfast Telegraph

Skipper wants his team to be Ballymena United heroes

By Stuart McKinley

Gary Haveron last night told his Ballymena United team-mates ‘we can be heroes.’

The Sky Blues captain’s motivation to achieve Irish Cup success is two-fold. He wants to wipe out the memory of cup final defeat with Coleraine in 2004 and is also keen to become a Showgrounds legend.

Firstly Ballymena must see off Glenavon in a quarter-final replay before a potential meeting with Crusaders or Portadown in the semis, having seen a place in the last four slip away after holding a 3-1 lead over the Lurgan Blues with 16 minutes of Saturday’s initial meeting to go.

“At 3-1 up I think if we’d kept it tight for the next five minutes it would have been game over,” said a disappointed Haveron.

“Fair play to Glenavon though. They hit straight back at us and showed character and resilience.

“I thought that we played well enough to win the tie and had enough chances to do that, and while it’s disappointing that we’ve ended up with a replay we’ll still be confident that we can repeat that and finish the job.”

It’s been 21 years of hurt for Sky Blues fans since they last celebrated silverware.

Paul Hardy’s goal against his hometown club Larne clinched the Irish Cup and Haveron would love to see his name and those of the rest of the squad written into the club’s folklore too.

“We are capable of going on and winning the Irish Cup and if we do we’ll be talked about in Ballymena for the next 30 or 40 years,” said Haveron.

“I have seen how Ballymena fans treat their ex-players and how they are worshipped. Paul Hardy is still a big hero at the club. He’s a Larne man like me and there is a great chance for the players who are at the club now to be up there with guys like him.

“I am hungry to win the Irish Cup. Losing in the final with Coleraine hurt more than the two broken legs I’ve had and since then I’ve wanted to get back and make amends.

“It doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve showed this season that on our day we are capable of beating anyone, we just need to do it on a more consistent basis, but in the cup it’s about performing on the day.”

Glenavon manager Marty Quinn will be forced to make at least one change as Ryan Harpur begins a two-match suspension — although he was substituted during Saturday’s first meeting.

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