Belfast Telegraph

Waterworth not shocked that DJ has Braid rocking

By Graham Luney

Andy Waterworth is not surprised that David Jeffrey is weaving his magic at Ballymena United. The man who guided Linfield to 31 trophies in a 17-year reign returns to Windsor Park tomorrow for the first time as an opposing manager with the Sky Blues now benefiting from the 54-year-old's knowledge and passion.

Jeffrey brought Waterworth to Linfield from bitter rivals Glentoran in 2013 and the striker is happy to see the colourful and charismatic character still involved in Irish League football.

But the Crossgar man has a title to hunt down and there will be no old pals act with United, fresh from reaching the League Cup final, arriving at the international venue brimming with confidence.

In fact, an away win would leave the Braidmen only three points behind David Healy's Blues in the Premiership table.

"I'm not surprised to see David doing very well at Ballymena United," said Waterworth. "He's a top man and manager. I know how he works and every one of those Ballymena players will be smashing the door down to go out and play for him.

"He's a strong and inspirational character who knows how to get the best out of his players. No one will be allowed to slacken off and David will keep the players focused and motivated.

"To me, David is a huge part of Irish League football and his pride and passion is clear. He's a huge fan of the local game and always willing to promote it.

"He's a close friend of mine and after the Irish Cup final, when I was dealing with the disappointment of losing to Glenavon, he was quick to offer me words of encouragement and talked about similar experiences in his career.

"He was one of the first people I saw after the game and his positive words were appreciated.

"Of course this weekend I hope he leaves the ground unhappy and we are in good form, losing only the matches against Cliftonville. This Christmas period is going to be massive for all the teams and you need to capitalise when other teams slip up and that is possible."

• Tiarnan McNicholl may have scored a priceless winner for Carrick Rangers in the League Cup semi-final against Glenavon, but he'll not be around for the showcase decider.

The 21-year-old, who grabbed the headlines in Tuesday night's shock victory at Mourneview Park - which took the Rangers through to an historic first League Cup final against Ballymena United on February 18 - is due to return to Cliftonville following a successful loan spell at the east Antrim club.

It's a big disappointment for McNicholl, but Reds boss Gerard Lyttle believes the player can now make an impact at Solitude.

"The agreement was always to bring him back after Christmas and that is probably going to be the case," said Lyttle.

"Obviously I will have to speak to Tiarnan about it, but I feel he can do a job for us. We are probably going to be missing Jude (Winchester) this weekend and he would have started for us as an attacking midfielder.

"Tiarnan has got really good experience now having played for a few months in this league and he has been playing week in, week out and under a couple of different managers. He has done well and he's a good kid, too. He works hard and he's really good off the pitch. To have him back would be a bonus for us."

Fixtures to come Saturday (3pm): Ballinamallard United v Glentoran, Carrick Rangers v Cliftonville, Coleraine v Ards, Crusaders v Glenavon, Linfield v Ballymena United, Portadown v Dungannon Swifts

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