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Glenavon v Coleraine: Jonny Tuffey out to shed more tears of joy

Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final: Ballymena Showgrounds, Saturday, 5.15pm

By Graham Luney

Jonny Tuffey has explained why he couldn't hold back the tears after Glenavon triumphed in last season's Irish Cup final.

The Lurgan Blues stopper was overcome with emotion at the final whistle after Gary Hamilton's side swept to a 2-0 win over Linfield in the May showpiece.

For the eight-times capped Northern Ireland international, the fairytale success was a real career highlight and a moment to cherish, particularly after the Blues had shown him the door in April 2015.

Hamilton moved swiftly to hand the shot-stopper a two-year deal, and during his first season with the Mourneview Park men his confidence soared and the Cup success was an ending he had dreamed of.

"You never forget moments like that in your career," said Tuffey ahead of today's Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final against Coleraine at the Ballymena Showgrounds (5.15pm).

"I'm not one of those who is merely happy to drift along and pick up my wages. I was disappointed with how my spell with Linfield ended as I went there to win trophies and unfortunately it didn't happen. But Gary (Hamilton) showed faith in me and it was just a wonderful feeling to be able to go back to the National Stadium and win the Irish Cup.

"It is the stuff dreams are made of and I could not hide my emotions. It was a special moment, a career highlight.

"This game can reward and hurt you, and I've had many highs and lows, but I've also been lucky in my career. You take the rough with the smooth and after the disappointment of leaving Linfield I needed a lift and Glenavon have been good to me, it's been a very enjoyable move and there's a good blend of youth and experience."

If the Lurgan Blues can overcome the resurgent Bannsiders this evening they will be 90 minutes away from winning three Irish Cups in four years - an achievement which would have any Irish League club bursting with pride.

"The incentive is there for the boys," said the former Partick Thistle stopper.

"But you also learn never to look too far ahead in this game and it can bring you down to earth with a bang. But it's clear this competition has a special meaning for everyone and we want to keep that record going. We are the holders and we aren't going to let go of this trophy without a fight.

"To win it three out of four years would be a phenomenal achievement but we could be left with egg on our faces if there is any complacency against Coleraine. We must take care of our own business and perform well enough to get to the final."

Coleraine are unbeaten in 14 games - an extraordinary statistic considering the competitive nature of the Premiership.

"They are going for third in the league and their form has been outstanding," admitted Tuffey. "It's a massive test for us because they have enjoyed a fantastic season.

"In contrast, our league form has been a bit disappointing but I don't believe the picture is as drastic as some would claim. It's important to remember there has been a bit of a transition period with players coming and going. That happens in football but if we stay focused and get that little bit of luck you need, the season can still end on a real high."

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