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Rising Glenavon star Cooper dreaming of more Cup glory

By Graham Luney

Joel Cooper was living the dream last season and if Glenavon can make it to another Irish Cup final, it would be another special chapter in his fairytale story so far.

In last year's decider against Linfield, Cooper didn't make the scoresheet but he produced a classy performance that even caught the eye of Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill who invited the winger to join the squad for training at the Euro 2016 finals in France.

Cooper's pace and trickery earned him the Young Player of the Year award after an impressive first season in the top flight and although he hasn't progressed as much as he would have liked in this campaign, the 21-year-old still has the opportunity to steer the Lurgan Blues to back to back Irish Cup wins and three victories in four years.

What a record that would be for Gary Hamilton's side who were tipped by some to launch a title challenge this season but now all focus is on another memorable day out in May.

Glenavon, who are going for their eighth Irish Cup win, eased into Saturday's semi-final showdown against Coleraine at the Ballymena Showgrounds (5.15pm) with a comfortable 5-0 win over Portadown and Cooper netted twice during a dazzling performance.

It was a handsome victory and a refreshing change from a Premiership campaign which has featured too many draws for the Mourneview men.

"At Portadown I was confident that if we could create chances we would take them and that's how it turned out," said Cooper who represented the Northern Ireland Regions Cup side.

"A lot of our league games have ended in draws and maybe in another season we'd have been winning those games and been further up the league," added Cooper.

"The fans love a Cup run, it's good for them that we're in the semi-final and hopefully we can keep going.

"I won the Irish Cup in my first year and now we're in the semi-final in my second year so it seems to be a special competition for everyone at the club," he said.

"We've had to play a lot of football before we could start to think about winning it again but we'll give it everything to return to another final," added the Glenavon ace.

  • Glenavon v Coleraine, Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final: Ballymena Showgrounds, Saturday, 5.15pm

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