Belfast Telegraph

Irish Cup Final: Tolan hopes Bannsiders will have a new hero to worship

 

By Steven Beacom

Jody Tolan is proud to be the last Coleraine player to score a winning goal in an Irish Cup final, but the former Bannsiders striker is hoping that his record no longer stands after Saturday when his old club take on Linfield in this year's decider at Windsor Park.

Belfast native Tolan, who now lives in Coleraine, is relishing a trip back to his home city and the stadium where he netted the only goal of the 2003 final against a Glentoran side chasing a clean sweep of domestic trophies having already claimed the Irish League title, League Cup and County Antrim Shield.

Just like 14 years ago, the modern day Coleraine team will enter the weekend clash as underdogs as they go up against David Healy's champions, who are one victory away from completing the treble.

"I remember in 2003 we were big underdogs going into that final," stated Tolan, now 39.

"Glentoran were going for the clean sweep and in my eyes they were the best side I ever came up against in the Irish League. They had a real swagger about them that season and at least five or six of them would be classed as Irish League greats, players like Mark Glendinning, Colin Nixon, Paul Leeman and Tim McCann.

"But while everyone else may have thought we would lose, we felt we could beat them because on a good day we could beat anyone. Marty Quinn, our manager, instilled that belief in us and remember we had some great players in our side too like Tony Gorman, Pat McAllister, Stephen Beatty, Paul Gaston and Gareth McAuley, who has gone on to have a great career in the Premier League and with Northern Ireland.

"We may have rode our luck a wee bit on the day with Tim McCann hitting the bar twice and we got a fortunate goal if I'm being honest. Once we got the goal we had something to hold onto.

"It was a corner for us which Tony Gorman swung in and Stephen Beatty almost scored. It was headed off the line and it came to me eight yards out and I hit it back towards goal, the ball skimmed across the turf, hit the post and went over the line and the rest is history. You dream about scoring the winning goal the night before and I was lucky enough to do it.

"I played in five Irish Cup finals (Coleraine 2003/2004/2008, Cliftonville 1997, Glentoran 2006) and that was the only one I ever won. It's the only one I ever remember too."

Five years before his Cup success, Tolan won the league title with Cliftonville. The big Liverpool fan says his manager on both occasions, Quinn, was instrumental in bringing the Cup back to Coleraine.

"What stands out for me in our Cup final victory is Marty Quinn pulling two masterstrokes. First of all his team talk was unbelievable on the day. I had played most of my career under Quinner so I had heard hundreds of his team talks but the Cup final one raised the hairs on your neck," said Tolan.

"He went round every one of the starting XI individually and I remember him stopping at 10 with Pat McAllister. He said Packie was revered in the Irish League and was the best midfielder about but he had never won anything and that was like a red rag to a bull because Packie went out and was magnificent, delivering a man of the match performance.

"The other inspirational move he made was in team selection. We had been playing with Barry Curran on the right flank. He had won the semi-final for us but in the final he chose Ian McCoosh there to put him up against Mark Glendinning. Everyone knew how dangerous Mark was but 'Basher' (McCoosh) went up against him and nullified that threat.

"Basher was a hard man and more disciplined than Barry and he hit 'Sass' (Glendinning) with a tackle early on to send out a marker and he kept going all day long. Barry had pace and a real goal threat but going with Basher was an incredible decision.

"In 2003 it was a big day for Coleraine and massive to win the final and it would be the same for the Coleraine boys this time around if they beat Linfield," added carpet fitter Tolan, who is married to Lisa and devoted to their two year-old son Lucas.

"In my opinion there is no better place if you are an Irish League footballer to be than Windsor on the first weekend in May playing in the Irish Cup final.

"I know they are underdogs but I think Coleraine have a good chance against Linfield. It is all on the day and hopefully Coleraine will come out on top.

"I'd like to see someone else take on the tag of being the man to score the last winning goal for Coleraine in an Irish Cup final.

"It was always about the team as far as I was concerned and that's the way it will be this time. Winning a trophy would be a huge boost for the town and the club especially when you think about all the financial difficulties the club has had in the last 10 to 15 years. Good luck to Coleraine. I'll be there cheering them on and hopefully they will get the win."

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