Belfast Telegraph

League Cup success would go down in Dungannon folklore but Ballymena are determined to win: McLoughlin

By Graham Luney

Honest Ballymena United assistant Bryan McLoughlin admits he would love to see Dungannon Swifts lift the BetMcLean League Cup - but only if his side fail to rise to the occasion at Windsor Park tomorrow night.

The decider, which has a 5.30pm kick-off time in front of Sky Sports cameras, is being viewed as an evenly matched contest between two clubs who don't possess the riches of title challengers.

Rodney McAree's men feel the hand of history on their shoulders as the Swifts have never won a senior trophy, but the Sky Blues beat Carrick Rangers in last year's final and will not let the silverware leave their grasp without a fight.

McLoughlin and boss David Jeffrey are serial winners from a glorious managerial spell at Linfield but DJ's No.2 is expecting a determined challenge from the Tyrone men.

Jeffrey's trusted lieutenant also understands how a trophy success can really lift a club and for that reason he will take some comfort if the Swifts finally open up their trophy cabinet.

"Regardless of where the trophy is now and the pride we have taken in winning it, it is fantastic - if Rodney's team win it, for me personally there couldn't be a better club to win it other than ourselves," admitted McLoughlin.

"If we don't win it I'd be happy to see them win it because of what that achievement will do for the club. We've had that experience. It's not the biggest trophy in local football but it's a major prize and it will go down in Dungannon folklore.

"Dungannon are a fabulous club and they are changing too, for me it's a well balanced final when two of the smaller clubs are playing against each other. We have scored a few more goals than them in the league but in a final it will be a fantastic occasion for the clubs who, if we're honest, weren't supposed to be in the final."

McLoughlin estimates that United have signed 52 players in two years, underlining a desire for change and continued improvement.

"There are leagues within the league - a top four, middle four and then bottom group," he added. "We were asked to keep Ballymena out of the bottom four because there was a fear of relegation. We made a conscious effort to engage with the community and supporters. We work closely with the Academy and meet with fans so they are engaged and it's a noisier atmosphere as it's their club.

"The difficulty within the league is that the bottom teams can beat the top teams on any given occasion. Last season we played Carrick in the final and they were capable of beating us, like Dungannon are now. There are only six points between us in the league, that's nothing."

Belfast Telegraph

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