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Hotshot Friel focused on firing United to cup glory

By Graham Luney

Ballymena United hotshot Cathair Friel is still pinching himself over how well his Danske Bank Premiership adventure is unfolding.

The 23-year-old smashed Limavady United's goalscoring record by hitting the 46 mark last season but the question was asked could he swim with the big fish in the top flight.

Friel has silenced those doubters by establishing a lethal partnership with Johnny McMurray and on Saturday he will have the opportunity to fire the Sky Blues to a first ever League Cup triumph.

Carrick Rangers provide the opposition at Seaview and for Friel, who has rattled in 19 goals this season, it's a golden chance to showcase his finishing prowess in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

"I never thought I would have been here at this stage with 19 goals," he admitted.

"From the start of the season I would have been happy enough to be on the 16 mark.

"Hopefully I can push on and get even better. It's a lot easier when you have a manager like Davy (Jeffrey) and the boys around me.

"I hit the 10-goal mark quicker than I thought so I changed the targets - I thought I'd be happy with 15 by the end of the season but there are plenty of goals in this team, with the attacking options we have we will always create chances, even the boys at the back carry a threat. I scored 46 goals for Limavady and I broke the record which was about 44.

"I've surprised myself how well I have settled in. I can never forget scoring my first goal for the club against Glenavon and it just filled me full of confidence, I felt on top of the world and unbeatable."

He added: "Since then I've been happy and as long as the team does well I will stay that way. It will be a great experience if I can play in the final and it's great for the club."

"We wanted to finish in the top six and hopefully challenge for silverware. That would be an incredible season.

"We beat Carrick 3-1 in the league last month but left it late to finish the game off and they are hard to break down. I just feel that with the attacking options we have we can hurt them.

"So many tickets have been sold and hopefully the fans enjoy it. For me to win a trophy in my first season here would be a special feeling. There might be two mini-buses coming from Limavady! My family support me all the way."

United are checking on Tony Kane's fitness after the set-piece specialist picked up a hamstring injury in the 2-1 league defeat to Crusaders at the weekend.

"Hopefully Tony (Kane) pushes through fitness wise as he would be a big miss for us," said Friel. "You saw the incredible free kick and not many boys can do that.

"It's as good as a penalty and hopefully we keep getting the free kicks and penalties and he keeps the goals coming. I'm happy enough as long as we keep winning.

"Even they (Crusaders) struggled in the second half and you don't know where a ball is going to land.

"In the second half we came out firing and, to be honest, we should have got something out of that game.

"We played well in the second half and could have grabbed a draw. Now we are focused on winning a trophy."

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