McAllister looks to spark Linfield glory era
Had Mark McAllister hit the back of the net rather than Alan Mannus’s hands during the penalty shoot-out in the 2007 Irish Cup final the course of history could have been very different.
As Dungannon Swifts’ main man he stepped up knowing that scoring would mean the destiny of the cup hinging on sudden death penalties, but miss and the trophy was going to Linfield.
Mannus, rather than McAllister, turned out to be the hero on that May afternoon as the Blues claimed back-to-back doubles.
A year later they lifted the league and cup for the third successive season and legendary status was bestowed on that particular Linfield squad.
Now McAllister, the man who came oh so close to stopping the Windsor Park men’s magnificent run before it really got off the ground, wants to take the first steps towards entering Linfield folklore.
The changing faces of the respective squads mean that only one man who started that final for the Swifts — defender Adam McMinn — is expected to be in their line-up when they return to Windsor Park in the sixth round of this season’s competition.
For the Blues, only three survivors started Tuesday night’s league win over Coleraine — and only for William Murphy’s recent return to the team and Peter Thompson coming back on-loan from Stockport County, Jamie Mulgrew would be on his own.
There will be two more men who played that day on duty tomorrow though, with McAllister and JP Gallagher — who moved from Stangmore Park to Windsor within a couple of weeks of each other last January — attempting to inflict pain on their old club.
“We’d played quite well in that final and a lot of people have said since that we could have won it,” said McAllister.
“Getting to the final was unexpected, but we’d a decent squad and unfortunately I missed the crucial penalty.
“A lot of players have left Dungannon since then, including myself, but they’ve rebuilt and have a strong squad again that will be coming to Windsor Park on Saturday to beat us. There’s no doubt about that.”
Such has been the transition in the Linfield dressing room that only 10 members of their 27-man first-team squad are in possession of an Irish Cup medal.
Many haven’t won anything in their careers — let alone at Linfield and while McAllister is determined to put that right, he believes that one success can spark another glory era for the Blues.
“All of us just want to win something and I think it’s important mentally as much as anything else,” said McAllister.
“I think if we win one trophy then we can go on and win more. The squad is very young and has years left to bring success to Linfield.
“I knew there was expectation at Linfield before I came, but I didn’t fully understand it until I was at the club for a while.
“When we don’t win something then there is criticism, that’s the way it’s always been and we want to give the fans something to cheer this season.”