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Irish Cup Final: Murphy is urging starlets to savour taste of big stage

By Graham Luney

Linfield legend William Murphy knows Coleraine's young guns will be nervous ahead of tomorrow's Tennent's Irish Cup final against his old club but he wants the starlets to savour the occasion.

Murphy, one of the greatest centre-backs in the history of Irish League football, lifted the Irish Cup on six occasions during his 16 years at Linfield but he wasn't finished there as he went on to repeat the trick with Glenavon in 2014.

The one that got away was the 2011 final against Crusaders when 'Winkie' was suspended but the Blues still triumphed 2-1.

Now assistant manager and Oran Kearney's trusted lieutenant at the Coleraine Showgrounds, the 43-year-old still gets nervous - and he's not even playing!

Murphy, who won nine league titles at Linfield and made 639 appearances for the club, wants the young players to embrace the occasion because it will be over "in the blink of an eye".

"The final will be a new experience for the lads," said Murphy. "There's a few of us here including myself, Steven Douglas, Oran and Skinner (Eoin Bradley), we have experience of finals and it's about the young lads embracing the occasion because it can go in the blink of an eye.

"You just have to step back and evaluate everything, you get your suits, then get on the bus, get photographs taken, walk on the pitch, take in the crowd, but winning the Cup is the most important thing. I thrived on nerves and it probably made me the player I was.

"I didn't experience extreme emotions but there are butterflies inside, every player gets it - if you don't it's maybe time to stop. I even get it now and I'm assistant manager but we can pass on our experience and hopefully the lads will enjoy it, but when the first whistle sounds it's down to hard work.

"My first Cup final I lost against Glentoran when Michael Halliday scored the winner in 2001. I was told by Joel Taggart that David Jeffrey had never won an Irish Cup winner's medal and I was 30 when I lost my first one and that stuck in the back of my mind. I knew how much it hurt and I said to myself afterwards 'I don't want to feel like this again'. I was fortunate to be involved in many more finals and win them."

Newly-crowned league champions Linfield will start the final as favourites but the Bannsiders have been a ruthless machine since January, storming to a third-place finish and Europa League spot.

Murphy, whose glittering Irish League career started at Carrick Rangers in 1990 and spanned 25 years, is now enjoying life on the sidelines, though he will be kicking every ball from the Windsor dugout.

"It's all down to the players, we are not blessed with a big squad like the top teams," he added. "We have a lot of homegrown players who are enthusiastic, hard working and just want to play football which is great. I've been very impressed with the young players.

"It's been a brilliant experience at Coleraine for me. I see a lot of David Jeffrey in Oran. Obviously Oran is a lot slimmer than what David was but he is very methodical and always the first on the training pitch. He is heavily involved in every aspect of the club and it's great to see."

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