| 3.1°C Belfast

Irish Cup final defeat taught me more than 2018 win, says striker McGonigle


Close

Finishing touch: Crusaders frontman Jamie McGonigle
will face his old side Coleraine in Saturday’s final

Finishing touch: Crusaders frontman Jamie McGonigle will face his old side Coleraine in Saturday’s final

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Finishing touch: Crusaders frontman Jamie McGonigle will face his old side Coleraine in Saturday’s final

Crusaders striker Jamie McGonigle insists he relishes the big occasion and Saturday's huge clash with his former club Coleraine has got his competitive juices flowing.

The 23-year-old is starting to show his finishing power after leaving the Bannsiders and joining the Crues in a £50,000 summer switch.

A first piece of silverware with the Shore Road men is his No.1 target and Coleraine's great run to the BetMcLean League Cup decider at Windsor Park means the Dungiven man will have to upset a few old pals to achieve his goal.

McGonigle, who scored 65 goals in 179 appearances for the Bannsiders, helped them lift the Irish Cup in 2018 when Cliftonville were put to the sword but the 3-0 final loss to Linfield a year earlier proved to be a big learning experience for a young player hungry to deliver on the big stage.

Cup finals can be settled by which side handles the occasion better and McGonigle says pressure or expectation won't weigh heavily on him this time.

"Winning the Irish Cup with Coleraine was a big moment but I think I learned more from the season before that," said the former Northern Ireland Under-21 ace.

"The 3-0 defeat in the Cup final was hard to take.

"I think that day everyone let their emotions get the better of them, but it meant we were better and more prepared for it next time around. I'm always calm and don't mind pressure.

"Of course, I want to win trophies at Crusaders.

"Wherever you play, you want to win.

"It would be great to be able to have that first piece of silverware in the bag but we have great respect for Coleraine.

"Games between Crusaders and Coleraine have been tight in the past few years.

"Having played on both sides I know how close they usually are so I'm expecting no different and certainly anticipating a tough game.

"When I first came to the Crues, I was injured at the start when I signed so I spent most of the time in the gym and with the physio but as soon as I started playing games I felt like I settled in straight away."

With both teams flying in a thrilling Danske Bank Premiership title race, the repeat of the 2012 final - which saw the Crues prevail 1-0 at the Ballymena Showgrounds - has added spice.

McGonigle certainly isn't surprised to see the Bannsiders packing a punch in the top flight again under Oran Kearney, who returned home in the summer following his St Mirren adventure.

"Oran is a great person and a great manager so it's no surprise at all to see them doing well," he added.

"Coleraine are a top team with top players including an unsung hero in Adam Mullan.

"He was always Mr. Reliable and also versatile when played out of position.

"I think he's only starting to get the recognition he deserves.

"With respect to the title race, it is very close and I think the table speaks for itself. Whoever hits form will win it."

As both sides are also gunning for the Gibson Cup, success on Saturday night would be a timely confidence and morale boost for the run-in.

"I think victory could possibly boost the confidence for the winners of the Cup," admitted McGonigle.

"It will give that feel-good factor and top of the world feeling, but with that can come complacency so if it is us that wins it, we cannot allow that to happen."

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph