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I'll make sure young guns aren't fazed by the big stage: Douglas

By Graham Luney

Steven Douglas has adopted the motto 'there's life after Linfield' and he's living proof of that as the men in blue and white stripes enjoy a fairytale campaign.

Whether there is a fairytale end to the season or not for Coleraine will become clear in Saturday's Tennent's Irish Cup final against Linfield at Windsor Park, but the veteran defender still gets a huge buzz from pulling on the boots at the age of 39.

On and off the pitch his leadership skills and experience have helped the Bannsiders force their way through a storm to calmer waters, and the younger players like Lyndon Kane have blossomed from Dougie's words of wisdom.

There is nothing quite like experience when it comes to knowing how to handle nerves in an Irish Cup final and the former Portadown defender has played in two deciders.

His Portadown side lost the 2002 final to Linfield, but while at the Blues he savoured the 2011 triumph against Crusaders.

In the 2007 victory over Dungannon Swifts he was an unused substitute as the Blues won a tense penalty shootout.

Ahead of his side's 4-0 quarter-final win over Ballymena United, Douglas received special dispensation to jet off to New York to tie the knot with long-time girlfriend Paula Scullion.

But the only romance on his mind this weekend will involve the Irish Cup and he plans to milk every second of it.

"There is life after Linfield and that has been a motto for me," said Douglas, who started his career at Linfield. "I've been fortunate to play in a few Irish Cup finals and this one hopefully will be the best, it means that much to me personally.

"If the result goes our way then it will be a really proud moment in my career and I'm just thrilled to be back in a final with a superb bunch of guys.

"The young lads are just brilliant and they are running all around guys like me without breaking sweat.

"It's been a cracking season and the boys have been in brilliant form. We had our blip earlier in the season and that's behind us and we have just got stronger and stronger.

"They really look after me and I'm just there to make sure Winkie (William Murphy, assistant manager) is doing his job!"

Douglas, who moved from the Blues to Coleraine in 2013, knows all about Cup final nerves, but this time he hopes to be a calming influence on Coleraine's hungry starlets.

"I always remember the first final, playing for Portadown against Linfield, and I felt so nervous before it," he recalled.

"Wes Lamont, the Linfield keeper, spoke to me in the tunnel before the game and I was terrified. I'll be speaking to the lads about it and it's hard to explain unless you have felt that excitement or sense of anticipation.

"Everything opens up in front of you, you see the crowd and then everything passes by very, very quickly.

"Oran (Kearney) has taken stick but all credit to the board and chairman Colin McKendry who have stood by him and given him time to make things work.

"The gaffer showed faith in the younger lads and they have really repaid that faith. The lads are embracing the challenges and they are improving all the time.

"Oran has done his homework and he's got most of the lads tied up on contracts. The great thing about an Irish Cup final is that the boys will get a taste for it and want more. They all want to be involved in big games."

Not surprisingly, Douglas is not making any retirement plans with Coleraine's young guns giving him a new lease of life.

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