Belfast Telegraph

Second has become first as silverware finally turns up

Glenn Ferguson
Glenn Ferguson

By Billy Weir

And so the second cup of the season is up for grabs this Saturday as Linfield play host to Ballymena United at the 'neutral' Windsor Park.

Okay, technically it's the first trophy but, because of the farce of the Co Antrim Shield, seconds will be served up first and a mouthwatering dish is on the menu. Yes, I have been watching Masterchef.

United have only lost one game in the League Cup in three seasons - last year's final defeat by Dungannon Swifts - while, incredulously, the Blues haven't appeared in the decider since 2008, when Glenn Ferguson settled matters for David Jeffrey's side.

There have been many changes since, but the two sides have had some cracking cup ding-dongs in recent times, ironically Ferguson leading United to the end of their long trophy drought with success in the Shield final against his former side back in 2012.

Only Tony Kane remains from that team and he was also in the line-up when the Sky Blues defeated Linfield 3-2 in a cracking Shield showpiece at Windsor Park in 2016, so David Healy will be acutely aware of the threat that the Braidmen will bring.

Of course, as you would expect from the most successful club in the land, they have had their own share of wins over United in finals, the Irish Cup deciders of 1970 and 1978, while goals from Oran Kearney and that man Ferguson took them to the Shield at Seaview back in 2006.

For United fans of a certain vintage (mainly Jackie Fullerton, to be honest) the 1958 Irish Cup success over the likes of Milburn, Dickson et al still has pride of place.

But with United seemingly Linfield's closest challengers on all fronts this season, Saturday's game could have a huge impact on the rest of the campaign.

There has been little to choose between the sides this term, a win apiece in the Danske Bank Premiership and the Blues seeing off their Sky Blue rivals in the semi-final of the Shield.

Finals don't get tougher than this, as John Torode might say.

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