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Big game Hunter gunning for Linfield

Andy Hunter is used to ruining double dreams when it comes to Irish Cup finals.

That’s why the Portadown centre-back is confident of leaving the Blues with red faces in the decider on Saturday.

Hunter was part of the Linfield side that denied Portadown the double in the 2002 decider when the mid-Ulster Reds ran out 2-1 winners.

Two goals from Chris Morgan settled that showpiece occasion but now the tide has turned for Hunter and the big defender is now focused on stopping Linfield clinching the double.

Hunter, who also made a late substitute appearance for the Blues in the 2-1 win over Glentoran in 2006, now wants to make it a hat-trick of Irish Cup final triumphs.

“The roles are reversed for me and anything can happen,” said Hunter.

“Being involved in that 2002 final from the start to finish was a really good day. Saturday will be another special day with a different meaning for me as I won’t be playing for Linfield.

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“I’m looking forward to it as equally as I looked forward to that day.

“In 2006 I came on for about the last seven minutes — it’s nice to play a part and that was a big game against Glentoran. Obviously it’s nice to win and it was a great day.

“You gear yourself up to win. If you are going to contemplate losing then you shouldn’t be here.

“You have to go in with a positive attitude or there is no use being there. You can get caught up in the day too much and you can freeze.

“But we have big players with experience and those boys will help the others through it.”

Irish Cup final glory would represent a dream ending to a turbulent season for Hunter.

The former Crusaders favourite was close to leaving Portadown in January but the second half of the season has proved to be much more rewarding.

“Big Ronnie (McFall) told me at the start of the season that I was third choice and it was time to dig in,” he added.

“I kept training hard but I won’t deny that I asked for a move. The only reason I asked for a move is because I wanted to play football — it wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it at Portadown or I had fallen out with Ronnie.

“He agreed to let me go but then a few of our boys got injured and after getting back into the team I haven’t looked back.

“There was no grudge against the club. It was frustrating kicking my heels on the bench but now I can possibly start an Irish Cup final — it’s a great turnaround for me.”

When Linfield go into Irish Cup finals, they usually start as favourites and this showpiece is no different.

However, Hunter believes there could be a chink in the Blues’ formidable armour.

“We are the underdogs and we don’t mind that tag but some of their players haven’t won cups either — it’s a big occasion,” added the 29-year-old.

“The league has shown this season that no-one is invincible. Everyone, including Linfield, have had their off-days.

“Hopefully they will have another one and we will capitalise. I haven’t lost an Irish Cup final yet so I’m feeling lucky!”

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