Billy Joe Burns believes Cup winner has rescued Crues' season
Crusaders' Irish Cup hero Billy Joe Burns feels his huge winner over Linfield could have saved the league champions' season.
Had the Blues overcame Stephen Baxter's men at Windsor Park they would still be dreaming of a domestic slam of trophies and the Crues might have struggled to deal with a significant psychological blow.
Although the Shore Road side will face Linfield in the final of the County Antrim Shield, they are nine points adrift of the league leaders in the title race and the Blues don't look like slipping up.
The Tennent's Irish Cup, which the Crues haven't won in 10 years, has taken on added significance and that made Burns' extra time winner all the sweeter.
"Potentially, that Cup game could have killed our season off," said the former Linfield favourite.
"We wouldn't be saying that but mentally we would have been left thinking we're out of the Cup and with a lot to do in the league.
"We will keep plugging on and obviously Linfield are firm favourites with Ballymena United just behind them.
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"Our eyes are only on Ballymena as we look to catch them. If we can do that then we can look at Linfield but they are in the driving seat and the challenge is for us to catch those two teams."
Burns was the toast of Crusaders last Saturday evening and he soaked up the applause but it wasn't the favourite goal of his career.
"It was a left-footer, I just closed my eyes and swung at it! Thankfully it went in," he added. "It just fell nicely for me and we were delighted to avoid penalties.
"The goal is right up there as one of my most important. Anytime you score late on, especially in extra-time, to win a game it makes it that bit more special.
"I can remember scoring my first goal for Linfield which was at Dungannon. It brought us back to 1-1 and that was probably my favourite goal even if it was about 10 years ago. It was my first senior goal and another last-minute effort. I like to play up front in training but on match days the manager keeps throwing me back to right back!"
Burns whipped his shirt off amid the celebrations and was handed the obligatory yellow card.
"I think the yellow was worth it to be fair," he added. "It was a rush of blood to the head but that's the rules and I'll take it. The Irish Cup is always very important and since I've joined Crusaders we have fallen short. Every player at the start of the year says it's a trophy you want to win and we're no different."
Baxter's boys will aim to keep clinging to the coat-tails of Ballymena United and Linfield when they travel to Dungannon Swifts this afternoon.
"Dungannon will be another tough game," added Burns. "Before that defeat to Coleraine they had been looking very strong and they will now aim to bounce back."
• Larne forward David McDaid has been named Championship Player of the Month for January by the Northern Ireland football writers. McDaid helped Larne to reach the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup and secure league wins over Loughgall and Carrick Rangers.