Finals are always a test of character but for Crusaders players tomorrow’s Setanta Cup showdown with Derry City at the Oval (4pm) could be the toughest assignment of their lives.
windsor anguish CAN INSPIRE HATCHETMEN TO SETANTA CUP GLORY
Up for Cup: David Rainey (left) of Crusaders believes the disappointment of losing in the Irish Cup final can spur him and his team-mates to victory in the Setanta decider at the Oval Cup
Stephen Baxter’s men have to lift themselves off the floor after losing 4-1 to Linfield in last weekend’s Irish Cup Final.
But the Candystripes represent another formidable hurdle and this time the Hatchetmen will need to dig deep into their reservoir of spirit.
City, with their full-time ethos, are expected to have too much power and pace for the Crues but striker David Rainey insists his side can stand up to the challenge just as they did when toppling Bohemians and Sligo Rovers en route to the all-Ireland final.
A test of character? You better believe it. “It definitely is,” said the hitman who has scored 20 goals this season.
“We had a test of character on Saturday but unfortunately we couldn’t take our chances and Linfield did.
“I don’t think the 4-1 scoreline is a fair reflection as there were key chances at key stages of the game which we missed.
“We were punished for them and the same thing will happen this Saturday if we don’t take our chances and if we don’t defend well we’ll get punished.
“We’ll lift our spirits and have a charge at Derry, giving it our best shot and hopefully it’s enough.
“It’s the passing and movement and fitness levels of the League of Ireland sides that is impressive.
“Their skills are impressive, they are training every day. We train maybe three hours a week while they do that in one session. They might be in twice on a Monday and Wednesday so there is naturally a gulf there.
“But it’s what you have in your heart too that sometimes gets you through football matches. Sometimes there’s a desire and hunger that can win football matches.”
The last time Rainey ran out at the Oval he hit a stunning hat-trick but that was against a poor Glentoran side. Tomorrow he will face a fired up Derry City.
“Last time out I got a hat-trick but I can’t see that happening again,” added Rainey who has won the lot apart from a Setanta winner’s medal.
“I’ve played many years at the Oval so it’s familiar surroundings for me.
“A lot of people wanted the game at Windsor but as long as the fans turn up and create a good atmosphere and spectacle then I’ll be happy.
“Sometimes when you lose an Irish Cup Final there is nothing to come back to but that’s not the case for us now. If we approach it right there’s every chance we can win it.
“I was asked which competition would you prefer to win and I said both — you don’t want to lose cup finals, especially if it’s
the Irish Cup but the opportunity to win the Setanta Cup doesn’t come along often either.
“It could be my last chance at it so I’m going to give it 100 per cent if selected to try and win it.
“We’ve had two very tough matches against Bohemians and Sligo Rovers and, even with a 2-0 lead over Sligo, it was a massive job to complete.
“They got the two goals but we dug in and got through.”
Crusaders fans can pick up tickets for the Setanta Cup Final from the Social Club from 11.30am to 11pm, C&D Newsagents, Shore Road from 6am to 8pm or D Boyles, Abbots Cross, Doagh Road, Newtownabbey from 9am to 5pm.
The game is all-ticket and no tickets will be on sale outside the ground tomorrow.
Crusaders supporters will enter the ground via Mersey Street using Parkgate Drive turnstiles and will occupy the Main Stand and Sydenham end terracing.
Ballymena United duo James Costello and Alan Teggart have both agreed two-year deals with the club.