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Tony Kane: Ballymena's disappointing season can turn into ultimate glory with Irish Cup success


Ballymena United defender Tony Kane

Ballymena United defender Tony Kane

Ballymena United defender Tony Kane

Versatile Tony Kane reckons Ballymena United’s season can go from the ridiculous to the sublime in the space of five days.

Although time was called on the Danske Bank Premiership campaign due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is still some unfinished business to be completed in the Irish Cup.

Monday, July 27 is the date that domestic football will resume, albeit behind closed doors.

Ballymena will face derby rivals Coleraine in the Semi-Final of the sport’s top knockout tournament at Windsor Park, where Cliftonville and Glentoran will lock horns just hours later.

Although the Sky Blues have thus far had a season to forget, Kane believes it could still be one to remember.

“We finished runners-up to Linfield in the League table last year, so this season was a massive disappointment,” he says.

“The break probably came at the right time for us. We had a season to forget because of a combination of things.

“We were badly hit by injury and suspensions, but the bottom line is we never got near the heights we reached last season in terms of performance.

“I’m not into making excuses, we lost games we never should have lost. Although we finished near the bottom of the table, we could still be better off than last year by winning the Irish Cup.”

Kane insists it will be a tough ask on all four clubs as they haven’t had any competitive action since March.

He adds: “We are back training for over a week, three days — Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. It will be like that until the Semi-Final.

“It will be a four-month break. That has never happened to me personally before in my football days.

“Normally, we have four or five weeks off in the summer, maybe less if you are involved in Europe, so to come back from a break like that into an Irish Cup Semi-Final will be strange.

“The only consolation is that every club is in the same situation.”

Even though there will be a lack of atmosphere, Kane reckons the derby dust-up will still be a humdinger.

He says: “Games against Coleraine this season have been tight enough. I think form will go out of the window.

“There is no doubt they had a great League campaign and pushed Linfield all the way. But it’s a one-off Semi-Final — it’s all or nothing. I think both teams will be going for it. League form will not come into it,  it will be a clean slate.

“I lost in the Final to Glenavon a few years back, so it would be great to get back there again. It would be the perfect end of the season — or the start of the new season.”

Belfast Telegraph