Belfast Telegraph

Belief high in the Mallards' bid for history: McCartney

 

Close eye: Jason McCartney (right) is relishing the big day out at Windsor Park
Close eye: Jason McCartney (right) is relishing the big day out at Windsor Park

By Graham Luney

Ballinamallard favourite Jason McCartney maintains that if his side didn't believe they could lift the Irish Cup today they wouldn't bother travelling to Windsor Park.

Crusaders may be red-hot favourites to sink a Mallards side competing in their first final but midfielder McCartney says the Fermanagh boys will not be lambs to the slaughter.

The 32-year-old has banked eight years of golden and not so golden memories at Ferney Park but it doesn't get any better than this remarkable Cup run.

McCartney and his pals will be hailed as heroes and legends if they can find a way to embarrass Stephen Baxter and his men.

The underdog sometimes does bite but for that to happen today, Harry McConkey's boys must keep a cool head when the heat is on.

"I think we have a great chance of winning the game and that's not being disrespectful to Crusaders because we know how good they are," said former Sligo ace McCartney.

"We know we are playing against a top side but if you didn't believe you could win it, why would you turn up?

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"There is belief and we won't sit back too much.

"We believe in our own ability and we can pass our way around teams.

"And we like being the underdog as it gives you a bit more freedom to concentrate on your own game.

"We started the semi-final very well and I have no doubt the boys can put everything to the side and do their jobs.

"I believe in myself and the guys around me.

"If things go according to plan there is no reason why we cannot be the team lifting that trophy.

"We are a small club and everyone knows everybody.

"I'm coming from Sligo but you really do feel part of the community and club. That's a great feeling.

"It's so hard to find that sense of belonging and when I retire I can always reflect on that special connection I've had with Ballinamallard.

"Hopefully I can look back and say I helped to create history with the club."

McCartney, who also had spells with Limerick, Monaghan, Athlone and Longford, feels the potential prize of Europa League action is also a huge incentive.

"We are trying not to think too much about that," he added.

"How could anyone have imagined Ballinamallard would be playing in Europe?

"I suppose if you can dream of winning the Cup, why not dream of Europe which could be the reward if the club gets a licence?

"It's going to be a massive highlight for me.

"I've been with the club for eight years and have made good memories and a few not so good ones.

"A Cup final is always special. Obviously Crusaders are rightly favourites but our boys are buzzing and while other people won't say there is pressure on us you put a bit of pressure on yourself to perform. You can turn that into a good thing to push yourself to another level but form and spirit is good.

"We know we have a tough job to do and will have a game plan.

"The mood is very good and of course you can never be sure how boys will react to the occasion but we handled the pressure of the semi-final very well.

"We'd love to be legends or heroes and if someone can score that winning goal it will be remembered forever.

"People will be talking about that until someone else can do it in about 50 years!"

Irish Cup final days are great family occasions and the McCartney clan will be travelling in numbers.

"My partner Leslie will be there as well as my two boys Raymond and Jake, who are involved with the club academy," he added.

"I'm keeping the McCartney name alive at the club, while my mum, dad and brother will also come up.

"There'll be a bus coming from Sligo and it will be nice to see familiar faces.

"The two boys are into their football so it will be nice to make some more memories at Windsor Park."

Crusaders

Ballinamallard U

Tennent's Irish Cup final:

Windsor Park, Today, 2.30pm

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