Belfast Telegraph

Final whistle didn't bring the curtain down on a day of high emotion

Andy Waterworth
Andy Waterworth

By Billy Weir

Saturday's BetMcLean League Cup Final certainly lived up to the billing, although a 1-0 win for Linfield over Ballymena United doesn't even begin to tell the story.

I don't think I have witnessed such a bizarre collection of emotions that have been unleashed since the final whistle (and before it, if we're being honest).

Relief for match-winner Andy Waterworth that the Blues held on, anger from Jamie Mulgrew for his treatment by the Sky Blues players and referee Andrew Davey, pride and delight in his side's performance by David Jeffrey and contentment for David Healy that he now joins the select band of managers to have all the local game can offer.

I went to the game, and it would be remiss of me not to single out Jimmy Callacher who was a colossus for the Blues, as is my wont when my hometown gets to a final, as a fan.

Of course, emotions are very different when you are sitting in the crowd, but what moved me was the warmth between the dejected players and the large number of fans who stayed well beyond the final whistle to show their appreciation.

Yes, Ballymena lost, but there was almost a coming of age for the team, perhaps a realisation that they can compete with the best and well, wouldn't you know it, they do it all again this Saturday in the Danske Bank Premiership.

For Linfield it is a chance to all but put the title on the shelf, a nine-point lead at this time of the season would surely be too much, but a win for the Sky Blues would close the gap to three points, with a game in hand. It is a huge game, and will be a tricky one to handle for whoever is in the middle, with every tackle on Mulgrew scrutinised, and let's hope that we are only talking about football next week.

Incidentally, Waterworth has scored 28 times against the Braidmen in his career, that is just ridiculous and few would bet against him doing so again on Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph

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