Kevin Braniff wants to wipe away his Irish Cup final heartbreak by helping to fire Portadown towards a league title challenge.
The Ports goalscorer showed his class by scoring from a free-kick that few — if any — others in Northern Ireland football would have dared attempt, but that wasn’t enough to overturn Linfield’s 2-0 lead.
As Braniff walked away from Windsor Park on Saturday evening with a silver medal in his pocket rather than a gold one, he took some small satisfaction from the way the Ports put on a strong display on the big day.
And he is now looking to at least emulate the achievements of Cliftonville, who went on from last season’s final defeat to Crusaders and ended up second in the Carling Premiership, with an even younger squad.
“It’s upsetting to lose, because when you come into a cup final the only thing that really matters is winning,” said Braniff.
“We can walk away with a lot of pride though after the performance we put in and the way we responded after going 1-0 down so early on.
“We’ve shown how well we can play, yet I think we could have played better.
“The two goals so early on — stupid goals they were too which we should have dealt with better — were a real setback and that made it very hard for us, but we didn’t give up.
“We were the better team in the rest of the first-half and we should have been at least level at 2-2 by half-time with the chances we had.
“I’d a shot saved, Johnny Topley hit the post and Alan Blayney made a good save from Wesley Boyle as well.
“On another day one or two of those go in and it puts you in a completely different position, but we didn’t get the breaks that you need.
“Although we’ve lost there is a lot we can take from the game.
“We’ve a young squad and the experience will do those young players a lot of good. It will help them a lot in the next season or two.
“This time last year Cliftonville were in the same position as us, feeling down after losing the Irish Cup final, but they came back well and had a great season in the league.
“That’s what we’ll be looking to do. We did well to get into the top six in the league and reach the cup final, now we’ll be looking to do even better next season.
“We want to be challenging and getting to cup finals and hopefully this is just the start.”
The Ports desperately needed to get back into the game and settle the nerves which were very evident in the team early on — even in their normally cool as ice captain Darren Kelly.
And Braniff is in no doubt that his 13th minute free-kick did cross the line before Blayney pulled the ball back.
“I thought it was in, all the boys celebrated and the linesman signalled a goal, so that was good enough for me,” he said.
“Conor Hagan (a Linfield squad member) is a good friend of mine and he said it was in as well, so if he’s saying that then it must have been in.”