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Defeat in season's showpiece is such a horrible feeling

By Scott Young

Published 06/05/2016

Key man: Kevin Braniff could have a major say in the Irish Cup final
Key man: Kevin Braniff could have a major say in the Irish Cup final

Irish Cup final day. There's nothing quite like it in Northern Ireland football.

Winning the league title is brilliant and gives you the satisfaction that you are the best team around because you have accumulated the most points over the course of a season, but for a pure one-off occasion, the Irish Cup final is in a league of its own in the local game.

I played in three finals for Glentoran, winning two and losing one.

I still remember the victories with great joy. The first one was in 2000 when we beat Portadown 1-0 and the second came a year later when we defeated Linfield by the same score.

There had not been a Big Two Irish Cup final for many years and the build up to the game was incredible. Everywhere you went in Belfast, people were talking about it and thankfully come the match we won with a Michael Halliday goal. He made a habit of scoring goals in big matches.

The thing is, I also still remember the defeat and am still gutted when I think about it.

We were going for the clean sweep in 2003 and were up against Coleraine in the Irish Cup decider. Most people thought we would end up victorious, but it didn't work out that way with them winning 1-0.

It remains one of my biggest disappointments in football.

I can tell the Glenavon and Linfield players who will take to the pitch tomorrow for this year's final, the pain of defeat will stay with them for a very, very long time.

When you are part of the winning team in finals, there is no better place to be than out on the pitch celebrating with your team-mates and your fans, but if you lose then being on the pitch is the worst place in the world to be.

My advice to the Glenavon and Linfield teams is don't lose at Windsor Park tomorrow. One has to, of course, and now is the time to get the crystal ball out.

I believe Linfield boss David Healy has done a fine job this season. Even when others were criticising him, I wrote in this column that he would be a success in the long term and I still believe that will be the case. In fact, if the Blues make a couple of quality signings in the summer, I could see them winning the title next season.

But I don't see them winning the Irish Cup tomorrow.

I'm going for Glenavon because I feel they might handle what will be a huge occasion the better of two teams.

Glenavon won the Irish Cup final a couple of years ago and that experience will hold their players in good stead. They will know what to expect while only a few Linfield players have played in a massive one-off game like this.

I also feel that if Kevin Braniff turns up and turns on the style, he will be hard to stop. What matters most is we see a cracking game and that no awful refereeing decisions dictate the outcome.

Belfast Telegraph

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