Belfast Telegraph

Irish Cup Final: Driven Healy has inspired Linfield to hit a higher level, says Carroll

 

By Graham Luney

Roy Carroll has hailed David Healy's impact at Linfield and backed his old Northern Ireland comrade to bring more trophies to Windsor Park.

Healy is aiming for a trophy treble tomorrow when his side scrap with Coleraine in the Tennent's Irish Cup final. The County Antrim Shield and Danske Bank Premiership title have already been secured as the 37-year-old silences critics who thought he couldn't cut it as a manager.

Last season finished trophyless for the Blues with losses in the Shield and Irish Cup deciders inflicting deep wounds but the players, inspired by Healy's drive and hunger, have found another level this campaign.

Their big game mentality is back and Carroll, whose experience, talent and leadership has been pivotal to Linfield's revival, says Northern Ireland's record goalscorer is only beginning his magical work at Windsor.

Blues chiefs are anxious for Healy to agree a new deal and the first name on his teamsheet can understand the club's determination to keep hold of this ambitious young boss.

"I've known David a long, long time and as soon as he asked me to come to Linfield, I said 'yes'," said the former Manchester United stopper. "I know the sort of person he is. I know his passion and he's a winner. That's why I want to be here.

"It's difficult coming from a professional background to part-time football but these players are professional in everything they do and they want to win, as they showed by how we won the league.

"When teams do well, bigger clubs come looking for their players and managers are no different. Every club in England or elsewhere look for the best manager.

"The gaffer loves it here and I know he wants that to continue - all that he's thinking about is winning on Saturday and building on that next season."

Fermanagh man Carroll has pulled off some sensational saves for Linfield this season and arguably his finest came in the semi-final against Dungannon Swifts when he raced back to flick away Peter McMahon's deflected effort nine minutes from time at Mourneview Park. Stephen Lowry's winner finally killed off the Swifts' resistance.

The 44-times capped keeper, however, is keen to deflect praise, remarking: "My brother told me I should have caught it!

"Seriously though, it was good to make a save like that and then five or six minutes later we scored the winning goal.

"It's good to be involved in winning the game. I had to move my feet a bit so those good old days on the dancefloor helped! The semi-final was tough and we got through with one goal so it was really good to keep a clean sheet.

"When you play in games and you're not really involved that much you have to use your experience.

"When I was younger, I wanted to be involved in everything but when you get older, the experience comes and you have patience."

Carroll, who has agreed a one-year deal to extend his stay with Linfield beyond his 40th birthday on September 30, hasn't savoured an Irish Cup final but in his days with United he performed on a much bigger stage.

The former Hull and Wigan stopper featured for United in the 2005 FA Cup final which Arsenal won 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out after the game finished scoreless. A year earlier he was a late substitute as Sir Alex Ferguson's side cruised to a 3-0 win over Millwall.

"I came on in one FA Cup final for United," added Carroll. "Sir Alex (Ferguson) dropped me just before the final because he said I hadn't been performing well. I'd had a really good semi-final against Arsenal but he said he'd put me on if we were winning.

"He put me on the last 15 minutes when we were winning 3-0 and that was unbelievable.

"As soon as it went to 3-0 I knew I was going on. The year after, I played the entire game against Arsenal and we lost on penalties, so I know what it's like to win finals and lose finals - and it's not nice losing them.

"I remember we were all over Arsenal in that final but it just shows you, if you don't take your chances, it can cost you."

The Linfield switch was a new chapter in Carroll's extraordinary career but it allowed him to return home and reunite with family while success on the pitch certainly keeps him smiling - when he's not roaring at his defence.

"I don't think I scare them, I just give them advice," he joked. "We've only lost three games. I'm enjoying every minute of it. Being with my family again is a big thing. If you're happy on the pitch, you're happy off it.

"We are hoping to make it three trophies this season but we know we have to build - that's what big teams do.

"The team have defended well, from Andy (Waterworth) back to me.

"The back four have been fantastic and scored a lot of goals.

"But we've had a really good season and we hope we can finish off on a high. Coleraine will be coming full of confidence; it's a one-off game.

"Anything can happen in a cup final. I've played in cup finals in Greece and England and it's always tight. Whoever is man enough will win."

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