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Glenn Ferguson driven to bring Irish Cup to Ballymena

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Glenn Ferguson celebrates winning the Irish Cup with Linfield in 2007

Glenn Ferguson celebrates winning the Irish Cup with Linfield in 2007

WILLIAM CHERRY/PRESS EYE

Glenn Ferguson celebrates winning the Irish Cup with Linfield in 2007

One thing is already certain before a ball is kicked in anger in this Saturday's Marie Curie Irish Cup Final – Belfast will wave goodbye to the trophy.

The iconic piece of silverware has not been country-bound since 2005 when Portadown got the better of Larne and the Ports' local rivals, Glenavon, will be determined to ensure that Mid-Ulster is again the destination for the trophy.

Glenn Ferguson, who was in the Mourneview Blues' team the last time they lifted the cup back in 1997, is acutely aware that his Ballymena United side has waited even longer for their cup famine to end – 25 years and counting.

"The hard work now for the season is done, it's just now about preparing them properly for Saturday," he explained.

"The players are all looking forward to it. It's been a long, long time in coming for both clubs, so I'll think it'll be a really good day out for both sets of supporters, players and clubs.

"For once in a long time the cup is coming out of Belfast and hopefully it goes up the M2 and not down the M1."

It was back in 1989 that the Sky Blues last collected the trophy, Paul Hardy scoring the only goal to end the dreams of his hometown club, Larne, in the decider.

Hardy was back at the Showgrounds last Saturday night with several members from that successful team but Ferguson wants the present Braid crop to make their own piece of history this weekend.

"Paul Hardy was an honest, decent, hard-working, bustling forward but by no means the best player in the Irish League," said Ferguson, who won five winner's medals in his own glittering playing career.

"But 25 years on he's still regarded as a hero. This is what they have in front of them and there's definitely more media hype and publicity than there was 25 years ago, so they've every chance to put themselves right up there."

Interest is high in both Ballymena and Lurgan in one of the most talked about finals for some years but win or lose, Ferguson's message is simple – have no regrets.

"If they have given everything they have on Saturday and tried and stretched every sinew and we come in and we've been beaten I will have absolutely no qualms with that," he said.

"But you can't carry players. Now there will be the odd player who has a mistake or on the day their ability isn't up to scratch, but there is absolutely no excuse for not working hard on cup final day.

"If someone has let us down by not covering a run or not doing the hard work he'll let everyone down, not just the 16 or 25 or whatever involved in the club.

"There will be four and a half thousand Ballymena men there – and that's the pressure of cup finals. I've been there. I've missed chances in cup finals and got beaten and taken stick over it.

"That's the cold, hard reality of it and that's what they'll be getting told in a positive way this week.

"There will be no negative vibes being given to them, we'll just be stressing the importance but we want them to go out and enjoy it.

"It's a great day out, traditionally it's a sunny day, sunglasses will be bought and the boys will be walking about in their new suits posing!"

And he'll hope that his sharp-dressed men will need those shades to stop the glare off a glittering prize.

Belfast Telegraph