Belfast Telegraph

Irish Cup final: Dapper Coleraine not under any pressure: McGonigle

By Alex Mills

Striker Jamie McGonigle insists his Coleraine team mates are suited, booted and are relishing tomorrow's Tennent's Irish Cup final against Linfield at Windsor Park.

The 21 year old, one of a number of young guns promoted by manager Oran Kearney two years ago, believes the Bannsiders are ready to reach new heights in the biggest game of the season.

Read more: Why a word in Bertie's ear could bring Irish Cup to Coleraine

All the preparation work has been completed. The players have been fitted with new suits; the town has been decorated; the pre-match meal arranged; the supporters have come out in numbers... so it's now down to a battle of nerves.

"This what every player dreams about," admitted McGonigle. "We'll certainly be looking the part. All the players and backroom staff have been fitted out with new three-piece navy suits; shoes; ties and even belts, it's unbelievable.

"It's the showcase match of the season. We've worked hard to get here, so we aim to enjoy it.

"Oran (Kearney), big Winkie Murphy and Steven Douglas have experienced all this before with Linfield. They have been urging everyone to enjoy the occasion, right from we wake up in the morning, because it can pass by so quickly.

"We're meeting up around 9.45am and we'll be heading off for a pre-match meal. We'll probably get to Windsor around 12.30 or 1pm to soak it all up. We can't wait."

It's certainly changed times at Coleraine and McGonigle believes that Kearney must take all the credit. It wasn't all that long ago that a small section of fans were calling for his head.

"Oran put his neck on the line the season before last by blooding a lot of raw teenagers, including myself," added McGonigle. "It was always going to take a bit of time for us to bed in.

"Results were disappointing over the second half of last season and some of the supporters were unhappy. But our chairman Colin McKendry wasn't intimidated. He stuck by Oran.

"And, he has been proved right this season. Most of us (young guns) now have 80 or 90 appearances behind us. We all know what is required to compete at the top. Had anyone offered us a third place finish in the Premiership table; a European place and an Irish Cup final, we would have bitten off their hand.

"We put in a brilliant 17 game unbeaten run since the turn of the year... beaten only by Crusaders and Linfield over the final few matches of the season. Having nailed down third place in the table, means the pressure is off us in terms of qualifying for Europe, going into this final.

"The fans are right behind us again... and also behind Oran. We would love to repay them by bringing the cup back to Coleraine."

• Glentoran have confirmed John McGuigan has returned to Glentoran after two seasons with Warrenpoint Town. McGuigan came through the Glentoran Academy and in his previous spell made 62 first team appearances following his debut away to Renova in the Europa League in June 2011.

Dylan Davidson (18) also joins the club from Preston North End. He is a striker who plays either central or left wing. Karl Hamill (18) has signed a two-year contract extension that commits him to Glentoran until June 2019. Karl has been at the club since 2013 and is a regular in the Northern Ireland U-18 squad.

Former Glentoran winger Chris Lavery has joined Portadown in a one year deal. And Mark Carson has agreed remain with the Ports for next season.

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