Belfast Telegraph

Coates out to ruin Mallards' big dreams

 

Crusaders captain Colin Coates
Crusaders captain Colin Coates

By Graham Luney

Crusaders captain Colin Coates says he's ready to rip apart the Ballinamallard United fairytale.

The Championship side from Fermanagh have progressed to their first Irish Cup final and they are aiming to become only the third second-tier side to stun top-flight opponents in the May showpiece after Dundela in 1955 and Carrick Rangers in 1976.

Harry McConkey's men have already rocked Premiership sides Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town en route to tomorrow's Windsor Park final (2.30pm) but Coates says the north Belfast men are hungry for a big finish after a disappointing title defence.

"We know the neutrals will want Ballinamallard to win and I can totally understand that as it would be a footballing fairytale but we're not into fairytales, we are here for ourselves and doing the best for our club and families," said Coates who is eyeing a second winner's medal after the 2009 success over Cliftonville.

"It's about winning another trophy. A few boys in the changing room haven't got an Irish Cup winner's medal and have that hunger.

"The Irish Cup could help save our season after the league title defence didn't go as planned. The Cup has been our focus and we've got to deliver."

Coates added: “If I’m being honest, we would want Ballinamallard to beat a Linfield or Cliftonville in the final if that was the game. People love an underdog but it was something similar last season when we were going for the title. Away from the Shore Road, people were rooting for Coleraine and we had to fight against all the praise Coleraine were getting.”

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The Crues skipper joked that he may have to throw an arm around Paul Heatley this week as the wing wizard hasn’t featured in an Irish Cup final.

Heatley has been lighting up the Premiership for years with the Crues but the premier knockout domestic prize eludes him.

“Experience counts in football, and you need that in a final, but there’s also guys like Paul Heatley who haven’t played in an Irish Cup final,” said Coates.

“I’ll have to put my arm around him and keep him right! Myself, Philip Lowry and Billy Joe Burns have played in a few and can pass on our experience to the likes of the Hale brothers.

“No matter what game you’re playing, whenever you cross that white line everything else is out the window. You forget about the trophy and your family. You play and ignore the razzmatazz.

“Players who handle the occasion will win the game and we’ve had plenty of big games over the last five years. We must be physically and mentally ready.

“Another Irish Cup would be amazing. I’ve played in three finals, losing the two to Linfield, and they’re not much fun when you lose but they are probably the best days when you win.

“You don’t get Cup momentum, in each match you have to deal with threats. Previous rounds have no bearing. We’ve beaten top teams to get to the final but now it’s about one more big performance.”

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