Belfast Telegraph

County Antrim Shield: It's crucial Linfield keep cool heads, says Waterworth

By Graham Luney

Andy Waterworth wants his Linfield comrades to forget about the pressure going into tonight's County Antrim Shield decider and enjoy the occasion.

The Blues frontman believes Crusaders are favourites to lift the trophy at the Ballymena Showgrounds but David Healy's side are hungry to show they can deliver on the big occasion after tasting heartbreak in last year's Shield and Irish Cup finals.

"I firmly believe the players need to enjoy these occasions," said Waterworth.

"It's important to have a positive attitude and not get caught up in all the hype and talk of a trophy not being won in a long time.

"Everyone knows that but there's no point in talking about the what ifs or potential psychological blows.

"The players will feel they have a point to prove after under-performing in past finals, that's a natural feeling but you can't think about that too much or start over-analysing things.

"Football is played on the pitch and it's what happens there that is relevant.

"We have to play well but we are capable of doing that.

"I'd say the Crues are favourites as they have a bigger squad and they are the league leaders but we are a good side too and we have beaten them this season, they haven't beaten us yet.

"I don't think there's much between the teams and it has the potential to be a tasty encounter.

"It's the first piece of silverware and both teams are hungry to win it. It's a big Belfast derby in Ballymena and there should be a great atmosphere, let's enjoy it and embrace the occasion."

If Linfield are going to conquer the back-to-back Premiership champions they will need to produce a performance similar to the spirited showing on New Year's Eve when Waterworth was on target in the 2-1 victory at Seaview.

"We deserved that win and something similar is needed in this final," he added.

"If we can show the same heart, desire and bottle then we can win the Shield.

"Then there's the added ingredient of the game being played to a finish so it's win or bust and you have to turn up and perform.

"There's no draw and perhaps it could be a little luck that swings it in one team's favour.

"The Crues have an edge in terms of being able to rest players and as they have a stronger squad we will give them the respect they deserve.

"They haven't been conceding many goals this year so we will have to find a way of breaking through their defence."

• Jamie McGonigle and Gareth McConaghie have both penned new two-year contract extensions with Coleraine.

Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney said: "Jamie has been brilliant for us. He is really one for the now and one for the future as well.

"Gareth has fitted seamlessly into life in the Premiership. But that has come as no surprise to me as I have always known the ability Gareth has, and he is showing that every week now."

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