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Final anguish long behind Cliftonville: Johnston

By Graham Luney

Barry Johnston says Cliftonville's 2009 Irish Cup final loss to Crusaders has been well and truly "put to bed".

Mark Dickson's matchwinner at a sun-splashed Windsor Park settled the first ever north-Belfast derby on the showpiece occasion.

Crusaders won the glittering prize for the first time since 1968 while their neighbours were left with only huge regrets.

It took Johnston a long time to recover from that nightmare, knowing that himself and Ryan Catney failed to rise to the occasion in midfield.

But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that historic day and this season it's the Reds who have been on fire.

Johnston and Catney have pulled the strings in the middle, guiding their side to IRN-BRU League Cup success and Gibson Cup glory.

Now Glentoran stand in their way of a terrific treble in Saturday's Irish Cup final.

But as far as Johnston is concerned, there is no ghost of 2009 to be exorcised.

"Myself and Ryan were terrible that day, we are the first to admit it," he said.

"When these things happen you have to put things right and I think we can say we have done that. It's been put to bed and its history.

"We have had a great season and the trophies we have won – especially the league title – helps erase that cup final against Crusaders from my memory.

"It hurt at the time but hopefully that was just a one-off disappointing occasion. This club should be about winning trophies and I'm now part of a squad which has a great winning mentality.

"We don't know when we are beaten and you could see that on the day we won the league. We kept going and Geordie's (George McMullan) late penalty saw us home.

"You've got to play for the full 95 minutes right up until the final whistle.

"We deserved to win the league and if we can play our normal game on Saturday it should be enough to win the Irish Cup too."

While Cliftonville are firm favourites to realise their treble dream at Windsor, Glentoran, who have lifted the Irish Cup on 20 occasions are chasing a first triumph since 2004.

Johnston was a 72nd minute substitute in that final settled by Michael Halliday's winning goal.

Now in his third spell at the Reds, the midfield general knows the Glens are capable of gatecrashing the treble party.

"Andy Waterworth has had a great season for the Glens and having played with Carsy (Stephen Carson) I know what he can do," added Johnston.

"You also have Richard Clarke who is a threat going forward but from our perspective it's about us showing what we can do. We don't fear anyone and we have the players who can hurt teams.

"Glentoran know how to play good football and get the ball on the deck and pass it around so hopefully it will be a good watch.

"I think it would be a very sweet victory if we could win it. People talk about the 1979 cup winning side and it really has been too long for a club this size.

"But we are the league champions and the onus is on us to go out and show everyone just why we have finished top of the league this season."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph