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Linfield's history boys enjoy day in sun as fans salute heroes

By Graham Luney

It was a day when the history books were rewritten with tales of legendary Linfield exploits. Striker Andy Waterworth netted the first hat-trick in an Irish Cup final since 1969 and his second in successive weeks.

Legend Billy McAvoy scored FOUR goals in Ards' 4-2 win over Distillery in 1969.

McAvoy congratulated Waterworth, saying: "You will be talking about it for years to come, I can tell you."

Blues number one Roy Carroll has joined a small but illustrious list of players who have won both FA Cup Winners and Irish Cup Winners medals.

Carroll won his FA Cup winners medal when he was a late substitute for Manchester United in their 3-0 victory over Millwall in 2004.

But Jimmy Delaney has the distinction of having won the Scottish Cup with Celtic in 1937, the English FA Cup with Manchester United in 1948, and the Irish Cup with Derry City in 1954, Jackie Milburn and Billy Scott are also on that list.

Northern Ireland international Carroll has made a huge contribution to Linfield's success this season and his world class stop in the semi-final victory over Dungannon Swifts will live long in the memory.

Waterworth grabbed the headlines in the 3-0 success over Coleraine but he was keen to hail all the players, including Linfield's resolute rearguard.

"If I hadn't scored the three goals, Mark Stafford would have been man of the match," said Waterworth who hit 30 goals for the season.

"He was superb, the timing of his tackles were crucial and he showed great composure and a desire to win the ball in the penalty area.

"Collectively, we have been brilliant and you need to work hard collectively to achieve success, including the boys who aren't in the first team.

"We are all good friends and somebody at some stage has popped up with an important touch when we needed it. It's a cliche but it's true, our team camaraderie has been underpinned several times."

The Linfield players and their manager know what it feels like to lose an Irish Cup Final and they were keen to congratulate the Bannsiders on a wonderful season which secured European football.

"Coleraine have enjoyed a fantastic season, for them to finish third and reach an Irish Cup Final is a great achievement with the budget they have," said skipper Jamie Mulgrew.

"They will learn from this experience because it hurts incredibly hard and it still irks and annoys me to this day that we lost last year's final. That has drove us on not to feel that pain again."

Waterworth, inevitably, was named man of the match but had he left his shooting boots at home Mark Stafford was a colossus for the Blues at the other end of the pitch.

"It's all a bit surreal," said the former Ballinamallard United ace.

"It's been an unbelievable season and I go back to the Cup quarter-final against Crusaders when we were behind in the league and it was a season-defining game.

It was huge pressure but the boys delivered. As a group of players we have fought for everything and stuck together.

"I know players have won individual honours but we have been an effective unit, also in defence as part of a back five.

"As the season has gone on we have got stronger and of course big Roy Carroll has been a big influence on and off the pitch.

"We can all hear his voice! The lads have stood up in the big games and to win three trophies is a superb achievement."

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