Belfast Telegraph

Linfield star Mulgrew inspired by the bad days

By Graham Luney

Jamie Mulgrew has won the Irish Cup on two occasions, but he’s not interested in remembering the good times.

Like any talented player, Mulgrew is driven on by the heartbreak — it’s the trophies that slipped out of his grasp that inspire him to more glory days.

At the Oval tomorrow the midfielder’s mind will drift back to last season’s Irish Cup semi-final when Linfield lost out to Cliftonville.

After the first game between the Belfast rivals finished scoreless, the Reds triumphed 3-2 in the replay at the east-Belfast venue. Late, late goals from Chris Scannell and Ciaran Donaghy secured a dramatic win, breaking Linfield hearts and setting up a first north-Belfast derby Cup final against Crusaders.

It’s not often that Linfield fans, players or management have an empty feeling in their stomach, but a trophyless season loomed large on the horizon.

David Jeffrey’s side are in a healthy position in the title race as Glentoran’s season threatens to implode after the resignation of manager Alan McDonald, but Mulgrew knows Linfield have won nothing yet. A highly motivated Glens side, under the guidance of Scott Young, are expected to give the Blues a rough ride tomorrow, but Jeffrey’s little creative genius has his own ghosts to exorcise.

“That defeat to Cliftonville is a bitter memory,” said Mulgrew.

“It was a very hard pill to swallow. We had the game wrapped up and they turned it around at the death. It was hard to take. You don’t forget a feeling like that. One minute you are close to thinking about an Irish Cup final and the next it is taken away suddenly.”

The Blues don’t intend to stumble this time round, but nothing can be taken for granted in the Cup — never mind the league — and Jeffrey’s men know they have a huge hurdle to overcome at the Oval.

“Of course Glentoran will be fired up, I wouldn’t expect anything else,” added Mulgrew.

“It’s a Big Two game and they are always special occasions with a lot of pride and passion.

“Both sides will expect a difficult game and it’s up to us to match Glentoran’s hunger and desire. Things can change quickly in football and we have yet to win a trophy. We may be where we want to be in the league, but the job is nowhere near finished yet.

“Football is all about winning trophies and picking up medals. I have won the Irish Cup twice, but this is an enormous test for us.

“Our attitude will have to be right, as David Jeffrey has stated, we have the quality in the team to win trophies, but we have to prove we are mentally strong enough to do it.”

Mulgrew added: “No-one’s place in the team is secure and it is always refreshing when a player like Curtis Allen (left) comes in and shows what he can do,” added Mulgrew.

Before the game there will be a collection in aid of the NI Cancer Fund for Children with Big Two legends such as Jim Cleary, Billy Caskey, Barney Bowers, Peter Dornan and Lee Doherty collecting vital funds.

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