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Braniff dressed to impress

Kevin Braniff has big boots to fill when he walks out at Windsor Park tomorrow afternoon.

The names of Stevie Cowan and Vinny Arkins are indelibly written in Portadown’s Irish Cup history, as men who each scored twice in final victories for the Shamrock Park club.

The other thing that pair of legends have in common is that both wore the number 10 shirt when bagging respective braces against Glenavon in 1991 and Larne in 2005.

Now it’s Braniff’s name across the shoulders of that particular red jersey and coincidence or not, he is the Ports most likely matchwinner against Linfield tomorrow.

The former Millwall man has scored 19 times this season and Windsor Park would be the perfect place to hit number 20.

“There’s no pressure on me then,” said Braniff.

“It would be great to join those guys with a goal or two in the final to win us the Irish Cup because I know they are big figures in the club’s history, but as long as I’ve a winners medal in my hand on Saturday night I don’t care how the goals come.”

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The Ports’ run to the final has been a rollercoaster for Braniff. He was sent-off in their fifth round clash at Carrick Rangers and then missed the replay as they squeezed through 1-0.

He then scored against Crusaders, before Jordan Owens earned the holders a replay at Shamrock Park, only to lose to a last-gasp Braniff penalty after Stephen McBride’s handball offence.

Braniff wasn’t so assured from the spot in the semi-final shoot-out against Ballymena United. He missed the first kick and was relieved to see David Miskelly save two to put the Ports into the final.

“Yes, we might have squeezed through a couple of rounds, but cup football is like that,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how you win the games as long as you get there.

“It’s the same in the final. Your league form means nothing, it’s all about what happens on the day and there is nothing stopping us from beating Linfield in the final and taking the cup.”

There is evidence to back-up Braniff’s claim. He struck the Ports’ goal in a 1-0 win over the Blues at Shamrock Park in November and puts a 5-0 defeat at Windsor a couple of months ago down to ‘an off-night.’

And now he wants to make up for seeing an FA Cup final appearance for Millwall against Manchester United elude him.

“I scored in the third round and played all the way through the competition, but was left out of the semi-final,” said Braniff.

“It was disappointing at the time and a real knock-back, but now I’m at Portadown and I want to be as successful as I can, win as much as I can and there’s a space that would love to be filled with an Irish Cup medal.”

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