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Celebrations over as Linfield begin final countdown

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Linfield enjoyed their title party on Saturday but boss David Jeffrey is demanding a firm focus on Irish Cup success

Linfield enjoyed their title party on Saturday but boss David Jeffrey is demanding a firm focus on Irish Cup success

©William Cherry/Presseye

Linfield enjoyed their title party on Saturday but boss David Jeffrey is demanding a firm focus on Irish Cup success

Linfield 1 Portadown 0: Linfield’s Irish Cup final preparations begin in earnest today after manager David Jeffrey cancelled the May Day holiday and ordered his men to report for training.

With the Carling Premiership title already in the bag, Jeffrey’s focus is now solely on Crusaders and the JJB Sports Irish Cup trophy as he bids to make it FIVE league and cup doubles in SIX years to mark the club's 125th anniversary.

Players were given licence to hit the town over the weekend to celebrate their championship triumph with the proviso they reported ‘in good form’ first thing this morning.

And they will be all ears to hear whether unlucky David Armstrong will be available for selection against the Crues.

He was carried off on a stretcher after falling awkwardly following an innocuous tackle by Richard Lecky in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Portadown at Windsor Park.

Sadly, Jeffrey isn’t holding out much hope for his big central defender, confiding: “It’s all conjecture at the moment.

“We don’t really know until we get the results of an x-ray and that could take several days. All we know is that David’s left ankle is badly swollen. It could be a stress fracture or ligament damage.

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“At the moment it looks as it will take a miracle for him to be fit enough to be considered.

“It’s a bigger blow than people think because we’re already without William Murphy, who is suspended.”

It means veteran Noel Bailie — who regained the captaincy in his 1013th apperarance — is suddenly back in the frame.

He has been used sparingly all season and retires after the final, but Jeffrey insisted: “Noel is certainly not out of the picture. He’s as much in the reckoning as anyone else.”

Jeffrey is facing a selection dilemma with so many having laid claim to a place in the squad. Even Saturday’s match-winner Curtis Allen has been left to sweat.

Allen struck in the 81st minute after a wayward back pass eluded goalkeeper Aaron Hogg and came back off a post.

But he admitted: “I’ve no idea whether I’ll make the final.

“I was dying to score if only to let the gaffer know I’m ready. There is so much competition for places.”

Meanwhile, Jeffrey is making sure competition will be every bit as intense next season by announcing he has signed Ballymena United central defender Albert Watson and Lisburn Distillery striker Gary Browne.

All this means of course that some players will be leaving, although Jeffrey insisted: “There will be no mass exodus. Ideally I like to start a new season with a squad of 26 and that is what we will be working towards.”


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