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Grandfather's winner's medal spur for Glentoran ace Waterworth

By Graham Luney

Football is a team game and players rise and fall together but sometimes there are very personal goals along the road to Irish Cup glory.

That's very much the case for Glentoran striker Andy Waterworth who, when he flicks through the pages of Irish League history books, recognises a name he is very proud of.

The Crossgar man will be hoping to make his own special little bit of history by winning domestic football's top knockout prize this season.

And achieving that goal would be the best way to honour the memory of his grandfather, former Glentoran defender and captain Noel McCarthy who led the team to Irish Cup glory in 1951.

McCarthy won two Irish League Championships and numerous other medals with the east Belfast giants, but a major highlight was a 3-1 win over Ballymena United at Windsor Park in the showpiece decider.

It was a sweet moment for the man who joined the Glens in 1947 as it came after a 3-1 defeat to Derry City in the 1949 final. But it failed to signal a return in cup fortunes for the defender as the left-back went on to lose another two Irish Cup deciders in Glentoran colours – to Derry City in 1954 and Distillery in 1956.

Noel passed away last year at the age of 88 but he was immensely proud of his 417 appearances for the Glens.

Under manager Frank Grice, he was captain for seven years and now grandson Andy is aiming to extend the family Irish Cup tradition.

Waterworth will line up against Portadown at Windsor Park today (12.30pm) knowing he is 90 minutes away from a first Irish Cup Final appearance and a shot at a cherished winner's medal.

Perhaps an Irish Cup history lesson can inspire another glorious chapter.

"I won the league with the Glens in my first season here but I don't want to finish my career without an Irish Cup winner's medal.

"I'd love to emulate what Noel did. He was the captain as well which made the memory even more special for him.

"That great team won many trophies and having that history in your family just makes you want to carry on that success."

In this season, of all seasons, Waterworth knows how special a cup final win would be for the Glens.

"This club has been through a rough spell and it's been hard for the supporters too. Everyone could share in the celebrations if we could go all the way. These matches are about giving your all, hopefully a little luck comes along your way and you shake hands at the end knowing it's gone and you've done your best.

"The Irish Cup is the one domestic medal that I don't have so I'm desperate to win it.

"It's a competition that has always meant a lot to me since I was a youngster and a big fan of Kilmore Rec.

A big team such as Cliftonville would come down and play them and it was what the tournament was all about."

Glentoran's financal woes are well documented but the players have acted with dignity, refusing to go on strike despite wage commitments not being fulfilled.

"It has been a tough time for many of the boys," added the 26-year-old. "When the wages aren't coming through for two months it's not easy and yet the demands are still there and the fixtures have been piling up with the Irish Cup and Setanta commitments on top of league fixtures.

"But the boys have still taken to the park and put in the performances which have now been rewarded with an Irish Cup semi-final appearance. It's a nice reward but football doesn't owe you anything and you have to go out and earn victories.

"Games against Portadown are always competitive and the rivalry between the teams just adds spice to the contest."

One of the Ports' top dangermen is striker Gary Twigg, a player Waterworth knows very well.

"I think Portadown are one of the best teams in the league despite their form this season," he added. "They have quality players who can hurt you and on their day they are capable of beating anyone.

"I know Gary Twigg from my time at Hamilton in Scotland, he's a nice fella and a lethal finisher but hopefully he's off colour against us. Kevin Braniff is the best player in the league in my view but if we can keep their big players quiet we know we can score goals.

"They will be desperate to save their season with a Cup win but our goal is the same."

Belfast Telegraph


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