Munster on trophy trail for Linfield
It's not something that causes Paul Munster to lose any sleep, but he is ready to put good-natured banter from friends and family firmly to bed tonight.
Much travelled Munster — he played in Canada, Sweden and the Czech Republic in the past — has been knocking the goals in on a regular basis since signing for Linfield back in August 2008.
And it’s in the big games that that 27-year-old really comes alive, scoring important goals on live television last season.
As yet, however, he has nothing tangible to show for his efforts. No trophy wins, no medals and only disappointment during his first campaign with the Blues.
Now he has the chance to wipe out the heartbreak of losing out on the Premiership title to Glentoran last season and being beaten by Cliftonville in the final of the County Antrim Shield when the Blues face Crusaders in this season’s Shield final at the Oval this evening.
“Now that I am back home and playing for Linfield it would be great to finally get my first winners medal, not least so that the slagging I get from my friends and family will stop,” said Munster.
“It’s all good fun, but I do get a bit of stick about not winning anything yet and my dad keeps reminding me.
“It doesn’t bother me that much, but it would be nice to have an answer for them and hopefully I will after this game.”
Munster was the scourge of Seaview when the Blues routed the Crues 4-0 in a Premiership game last month.
He grabbed a hat-trick that day, walking off the pitch with the match ball. Tonight though it is all about getting his hands on the Shield and medal that goes with it.
“That match doesn’t mean anything now and will count for nothing when we play Crusaders this time,” said Munster.
“Last year’s final against Cliftonville was pretty disappointing. You don’t tend to remember much about games that you lose and it was a tough one for us to get over at the time.
“We’re just hoping that it will be different this time and that everything about this game will be positive; before, during and after it.”
Munster isn’t alone in the Linfield dressing room in terms of having a medal collection during his time at Windsor Park that numbers zero.
Of the 16 players on duty at Dungannon on Saturday Stuart Addis, Michael Carvill, Billy Joe Burns, Mark Miskimmin, Mark McAllister, Jamie Tomelty, Philip Lowry and Robert Garrett are all waiting to lift their first trophy as Linfield players. Add to that Curtis Allen who is now free from suspension and is likely to come into the squad tonight.
“The manager has mentioned it a few times, about the challenge to the players who haven’t won anything to go and start winning trophies,” said Munster.
“We want to show him that we are good enough and are capable of winning things and bringing success to the club.”
COLIN COATES v PAUL MUNSTER
Coates has shown little of the same form that won him a Northern Ireland cap at the end of last season and brought interest from Leeds United, but he remains a tough challenge for every striker in the league.
Munster had a field day against the Crues last time out, netting the first hat-trick of his Linfield career in the Blues’ 4-0 win at Seaview. He and Mark Miskimmin have come together in the Blues attack almost by accident, but they’ve linked up well and both men have found the net with regularity.
MARTIN DONNELLY v JIM ERVIN
This time last year Donnelly was unplayable. He was showing everyone just why Sheffield United had snapped him up as a teenager and other cross-channel clubs were monitoring the man who’d just returned home from Bramall Lane.
Ervin returned from a cruciate ligament injury earlier this year as an even better player. Generally players take at least six months to get really going again, but not Ervin and he’s been the answer to Linfield’s penalty problems as well.
DAVY RAINEY v STEVEN DOUGLAS
Rainey's form has largely reflected that of the Crues themselves this season. He started the season on fire, but of late has struggled to find the net and even found himself on the bench against Institute on Saturday, but is expected to return tonight.
Douglas has been a revelation for Linfield in 2009, finding himself in the centre of defence due to an injury crisis, he has made a place there his own and has more than justified David Jeffrey’s decision to hand him the captaincy in Noel Bailie’s absence.
TONIGHT’S FIXTURES: Paddy Power County Antrim Shield final: Crusaders v Linfield (The Oval, 7.35pm), Co-operative Insurance Cup second round second-leg (7.45pm): Limavady United v Ballinamallard United, Coleraine v Lisburn Distillery.