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Celtic out to spring shock in Mid-Ulster showpiece

Loughgall may be the team with the cup pedigree and superior league standing ahead of today's Belfast Telegraph Bob Radcliffe Cup final, but they would be foolish to treat their final opponents, Lurgan Celtic, lightly.

Unusually for a final, the Lakeside Park men even have home advantage for the game, which has an 11am kick-off.

However, none of that is likely to trouble Lurgan Celtic nor their buoyant manager Ciaran O'Kane.

They have, after all, nothing to prove. The Hoops have already taken a huge scalp in the form of one-time Championship One leaders, and former Radcliffe Cup favourites, Newry City in the semi-final.

It was no small victory, either - a 3-0 trouncing, to be precise. No wonder O'Kane is confident of his team putting on another good show.

He said: "I expect our boys to be fired up for it. Our players know their players well, so while we will have respect for them, there is no danger of us getting stage fright."

It will also be a poignant occasion for all connected with the Lurgan club, as it marks the first occasion they have reached the final since striker Tony Creaney's last ever game before he was tragically lost to cancer soon after. Celtic since retired the number nine shirt as a mark of respect.

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As for Loughgall, they not only carry the reputation as one of the most successful intermediate clubs to have emerged from the Mid Ulster area, but have a man in charge who knows all about getting his hands on silverware.

Former Glenavon boss Colin Malone, who hails from Lurgan, is looking to land the trophy with his fourth club, having previously won the Radcliffe Cup as a player and manager with Dungannon Swifts, Armagh City and Banbridge.

And while Malone is desperate to win it yet again, he won't get carried away with the expectancy surrounding the club.

He said: "It's nice to be in the final, but now we have to win it. I don't think there is any pressure on me, though, as the club are giving me a chance to Loughgall back on its feet again."


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