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Berry is hoping PSNI can stun Crues and be pick of the bunch

By Graham Luney

For Ryan Berry, tomorrow's big Irish Cup sixth round battle against Crusaders is sparking memories of an unforgettable afternoon in May 2006.

These days the 28-year-old midfielder is helping PSNI stay in the Championship's top four but 10 years ago he was a fresh-faced teenager soaking up the atmosphere in a Big Two Irish Cup final.

Berry was part of the Glentoran team that lost 2-1 to Linfield as the Blues, courtesy of Peter Thompson's double, completed an extraordinary clean sweep.

It was Linfield's first Irish Cup final win over the Glens since 1945 and while the promising midfielder was devastated, he picked himself up and scored in the 2007 County Antrim Shield final victory over Crusaders.

Berry made 74 appearances for the Glens, scoring two goals, but following his release by manager Scott Young his career failed to take off. He moved to Ballymena United, Ards and after a short spell at Larne linked up with PSNI just over three years ago.

But he's enjoying his football again and this clash at Seaview evokes memories of titanic tussles in his teenage years.

"I was 17 or 18 at the time of that Irish Cup final and it was a great occasion to be involved in," said Berry. "Perhaps it came a bit early in my career and if I was older and more experienced I could have savoured it more but it was a big day and it would be nice to have a few more.

"We went 1-0 up through Michael Halliday but Peter Thompson scored twice and although there was a feeling I was thrown in at the deep end, I was very fortunate as many players don't get to experience an Irish Cup final, never mind a Big Two one.

"I was getting rave reviews at a very young age and I probably played my best football with Glentoran under Windy (Paul Millar). When Alan McDonald came in he had his own ideas and I was hampered by injuries. There is a regret that things didn't turn out better but when I joined PSNI I thought it was the last chance saloon and I wanted to get my career back on track.

"I didn't want to go from club to club but after talking to Jamesie Kirk and Gavin Arthur at that time I knew they shared my vision. The big cup games such as this one are a reminder of earlier days in my career, the big finals, the Setanta Cup battles and the big league matches. If we can beat the Crues that would be something special."

Berry is taking great heart from his side's battling performance in the 4-2 loss to the Crues in the County Antrim Shield semi-final.

"We are huge underdogs but hopefully we can cause an upset," he added. "A few late goals added a gloss to that scoreline as we made them work hard.

"I know they have the Shield final on Tuesday night but they have a big squad and quality throughout it. But we'll focus on ourselves and try to make it difficult for them."

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