Swifts savour date with destiny
Ballymena Utd 1 Dungannon Sw 3
Dungannon Swifts manager Rodney McAree, his captain Ryan Harpur and two-goal hero Ryan Mayse left the post-match press conference to the sound of warm applause and it was fully merited.
Some players can walk away from Cup finals feeling let down by officials or cursing horrendous luck but on this occasion the better side got what they deserved.
This was the Swifts' date with destiny, their finest hour and not only did they make history in winning their first major piece of silverware, they did it in style.
Former Ballinamallard United ace Mayse may have grabbed the headlines with his magnificent brace but this Cup success reflected the affection the players have for the club and the togetherness in the dressing room.
Seven of them played for Dungannon United Youth and when you have all that desire, spirit, hunger and passion in one squad there is always a chance a glorious chapter will be written.
As McAree said after the game, beating legendary managerial duo David Jeffrey and Bryan McLoughlin made the moment even sweeter because those guys know how to win silverware after collecting 32 trophies.
The Ballymena United players could never be accused of lacking hunger but they were outfought and outplayed.
Kevin Braniff's absence through injury and Steven McCullough's suspension didn't help but every Swifts player seemed driven by a desire to make history.
Skipper Harpur was sent off for an off the ball clash with Kofi Balmer in the final 10 minutes but that disappointment quickly evaporated when he lifted the prize with Terry Fitzpatrick.
"The young lad came across the front of me and there was no intent in my part," said Harpur. "I have caught him but I didn't mean to catch him down the back of his leg.
"It was the longest 11 minutes of my life. I was told I couldn't watch and I was just praying they wouldn't score to make it a nervy ending.
"I couldn't see anything. As soon as we won the semi-final I knew I wanted Terry to lift the trophy as well if we won it because of the respect we all have for him. He has been here for so long and I knew it would mean a lot to him. I didn't tell him as he would have told me where to go.
"This Cup win is no surprise to me because I know the quality that is in our changing room. To play the way we do and get a bit of success, hopefully it will fire us to more good days."
The first goal on 11 minutes was a clinical move, Paul McElroy's cross was superbly knocked down by Harpur and Mayse hammered the ball past keeper Ross Glendinning.
United equalised on 17 minutes when Kyle Owens headed home from close range after Leroy Millar's corner.
But the Swifts regained the lead in the 37th minute when Mayse beat Glendinning at the second attempt following Seanan Clucas' cross.
Dungannon's third goal 10 minutes after the restart was the killer, Cormac Burke floating the ball past a static Glendinning.
Swifts goalkeeper Stuart Addis was in inspired form, despite Conor McCloskey's attempts to find a way past him and the defence, with Chris Hegarty and David Armstrong at its heart, were cool under pressure.
There's little consolation for the Sky Blues but they could still appreciate what the victory meant to their opponents and the supporters who savoured the moment.
The Swifts may not have the biggest budget in the league but they certainly have big hearts.
Dungannon: Addis, Hegarty, Armstrong, Mayse (Teggart, 75 mins), McElroy, Harpur, O'Rourke, Lowe, Clucas (Wilson, 46 mins), Burke (Fitzpatrick, 82 mins), Hutchinson. Unused subs: Coleman, Campbell.
Ballymena: Glendinning, Kane, Owens, Friel, McCloskey, Burns (Weir, 67 mins), Balmer (McCaffrey, 82 mins), Ervin, Millar, Faulkner (Shevlin, 67 mins), McMurray. Unused subs: Flynn, Quigley.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)
Man of match: Ryan Mayse
Match rating: 8/10