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Teacher Surgenor is hoping to show his class and earn bragging rights

By Graham Luney

Mark Surgenor has taken enough stick - tomorrow night he wants to start dishing it out.

The former Ballymena United midfielder has been on the receiving end of League Cup final banter but he hopes to have the last laugh by helping Carrick Rangers grasp the glittering prize at Seaview.

After spending six years at the Sky Blues before then boss Gary Haveron brought him to Carrick in the summer of 2015, the 31-year-old would love to torpedo the dreams of his old club.

"It makes it even more special for me and makes me even more fired up for it," said the former Ballymoney United man and schoolteacher.

"In Ballymena at the minute, I take a lot of stick walking down the street and from the kids in school. It is quite special to me.

"It adds a little bit to it from a personal point of view and it would make it even sweeter if we got the victory. That's taking nothing away from the lads at Ballymena or friends and family.

"I've made a few threats on the golf course that I'll look for somebody in the crowd that I'll go up and celebrate to first.

"What it would be to score in the final against Ballymena - no doubt about it. You leave your allegiances and your history behind and you really go for it on the day."

Carrick's remarkable League Cup run - and in particular their 1-0 semi-final victory over Glenavon - has lifted spirits during a season which has been all about Premiership survival, with a relegation play-off on the cards.

"No disrespect to Carrick, even when I was at Ballymena, getting to a cup final is a massive, massive thing," added Surgenor.

"When I came to Carrick, a senior cup final was never really in my thoughts. I knew we were always going to be trying to overachieve in league positions.

"The last day of last season was one of the craziest I've ever been involved in. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff. You see it on TV but you never think you're going to be involved in it.

"Getting to the final, you don't understand how much it means to the people in Carrick. You still see the 'Spirit of 76' banners. It really hits home that this is Carrick in a final. We're a senior club, yes, but we've been punching above our weight for a lot of years.

"Surviving in the Premiership is our aim, then to establish ourselves. We're still there trying to punch above our weight."

Surgenor believes his side's League Cup adventure has captured the imagination of fans in the town who have needed to look further afield for success stories.

He added: "It's massive. People come out of the woodwork. I would still maintain that Carrick are the third best supported team in Carrick when you take Linfield and Glentoran into it.

"Linfield and Glentoran have had the success so they'll bring the fans. Now, who knows? This run, last year staying up, the youth teams are flourishing, there are young lads running about Carrick with Carrick shirts on.

"It's not Linfield or Glentoran tops you see. It really can unearth a lot of young fans who come to follow us and play for our club. They might go on to become the next generation of Carrick fans. The more success we can bring, the more fans we'll bring with it.

"It's great for the club and for the fanbase and I think it's going to bring Carrick into the light."

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