This season David Magowan timed his suspension as perfectly as one of his challenges on the pitch.
Even though ‘Mags’ narrowly missed out in the Player of the Year gong last season, the campaign ended in heartbreak for him as a one-match ban ruled him out of the biggest match of his life.
Without him the Crues went on to lift the Irish Cup but the centre-back was simply a frustrated spectator as Mark Dickson drilled home the sensational winner against Cliftonville.
And this season Magowan — and his skipper Colin Coates — came perilously close to missing tonight’s County Antrim Shield decider against Linfield at the Oval through suspension.
A one-match ban saw the defensive duo sit out the 2-1 defeat at home to Institute and their teammates clearly struggled to keep the back door shut.
But the silver lining to that ban is both men’s availability for tonight’s mouth-watering showdown and Magowan can be forgiven for breathing a huge sigh of relief that he will not be forced to sit out another major final.
“I’ve just about timed the suspension perfectly!” admitted the former Bangor defender.
“I didn’t really know much about that I’m just glad I’m available for the final. At least the game on Saturday was on our pitch which meant it wasn’t going to be called off, meaning we would not miss the Linfield game.
“Of course you don’t want to miss out on cup finals — I was gutted to miss the Irish Cup final but you just have to move on, there is nothing I could do about it.
“Hopefully I can put that to bed on Tuesday night and get the first senior medal under my belt. This team has shown it is good enough to win trophies.”
Crusaders need a confidence boost after going eight games without a victory but Magowan says no-one is pressing any panic buttons on the Shore Road.
Without doubt, a win this evening would blow away any storm clouds gathering over the home of the Hatchetmen.
“In the last few weeks the boys have been playing quite well but the ball has just not fallen for us in front of goal,” he added.
“Other teams have been getting their chances and taken them, unlike ourselves. In the last few years we have beaten both Linfield and Glentoran so there is certainly no fear in the dressing room.
“We played well to beat the Blues at Windsor but you could say we were due a win against them! It had been a while. They are a top team and will be hard to catch in the title race but this is a one-off game.”
Meanwhile, Crues boss Stephen Baxter is confident is side’s disappointing run of results in the league will not hinder their shot at Shield glory.
“It would be nice to win the County Antrim Shield but it will come down to who plays better in the 90 minutes and I won’t lose sight of the importance of the league to us,” he said.
“We are not winning football matches at the moment and we need to learn how to quickly put that early season form back into gear again. You have to be positive and we will come in a positive frame of mind — there is no point in going there and setting up a defensive shape that doesn’t allow for good football.”