Sitting out Linfield title decider has added fuel to Smyth's fire
Paul Smyth has admitted he looked on with envy last week as Linfield picked up the Danske Bank Premiership title for the first time in five years.
The 19-year-old, who burst onto the scene last season, was instrumental in helping bring back the title to Windsor Park with a series of devastating performances, but agonisingly had to sit out a one-game suspension at Solitude.
Smyth and his team-mates were given a rousing reception when they returned to the international arena last Saturday night to proudly parade the coveted trophy in front of over 2,000 jubilant fans.
It was an incredible party and young Smyth duly delighted his adoring supporters with a trademark somersault when he was introduced to the masses that were crammed into the East Stand.
If anything, that homecoming has made the starlet even more determined to nudge his way into the team for Saturday's showcase match of the season - the Tennent's Irish Cup final against Coleraine.
"I don't know how I'll get into the team after last weekend," he said. "I'll certainly be training well all week.
"Fingers crossed I can make it, but no matter what team the boss names, our total focus will be on bringing the Cup back to Windsor Park.
"It will be a tough game. Coleraine have proved what a good side they are. It's everyone's dream to play in an Irish Cup final - I would love to be a part of it.
"We all have something to prove after last year's result. We dominated Glenavon for the first 25 minutes, but they got the vital breakthrough just before half-time and that proved crucial. It was probably a goal against the run of play. But you know what they say, goals change games.
"It's great to have the league title in the bag going into the final."
Smyth, who has scored 11 goals this season, stressed he had few fingernails left after last week's dramatic win.
He said: "The first half was nerve-wrecking. Cliftonville were one-up and we were not playing particularly well. But I never had any doubts that the boys wouldn't turn it around.
"Cliftonville are a strong side, they are a good team that likes to play good football, but I think we were too strong in the end.
"Andy's (Waterworth) second-half performance was incredible. His second goal was fit to grace any occasion. That helped push us on to win - every one of the boys were outstanding in the second half."
Smyth added playing with boys like Waterworth, Jamie Mulgrew and Stephen Lowry has helped make him a better player.
"It's crazy because they motivate you so much," he added. "I'm learning all the time playing with Andy up front and Jamie and Stevie in the middle.
"They've been there for a long time and I've only been in the team for the past year and a half. They have helped push me along to the player I am today."
Meanwhile, there has been a late cry-off for the final with the news that illness has ruled out referee Raymond Hetherington officiating on Saturday.
The Dungannon official will be replaced by Keith Kennedy from Lisburn.
An Irish FA spokesperson said: "Unfortunately Raymond Hetherington is unable to referee this Saturday's Irish Cup final due to illness, having not been able to recover sufficiently from a chest infection.
"He will be replaced by Keith Kennedy with Tim Marshall now appointed as fourth official."