Belfast Telegraph

Dungannon Swifts must seize chance to make cup dream come true: Harpur

By Adrian Rutherford

Dungannon captain Ryan Harpur believes reaching a major cup final will count for nothing unless they go on and win it.

The midfielder scored an extra-time winner in Tuesday night's BetMcLean League Cup semi-final against Crusaders, his penalty completing a stunning comeback from the Swifts, who now face Cliftonville or Ballymena United in the final.

It is only the second time that Dungannon have reached a major final - the last was in 2007 in the Irish Cup.

But the 29-year-old insists it will only count for something if they lift the trophy at Windsor Park on February 17.

"It's immense - it is almost indescribable what it means to get to the final," he said. "You don't see a lot of what goes on here. People work tirelessly around the club and it's just great to give them a day out.

"It's brilliant, but we don't want it to end. We celebrated afterwards because it has been so long since we got to a final, but we haven't won anything.

"Obviously we need to go on and lift the cup. To get to the final is a big thing, but now we have to go on and win it."

Dungannon hadn't beaten the Crues since September 2012, and trailed to Colin Coates' header early in the second half, but they grew stronger, and substitute Peter McMahon's 85th-minute equaliser - on his final appearance for the club - took the tie into extra-time.

Harpur then won it from the spot in the first period.

He said: "It has been a long time coming - that is my fourth semi-final and I've finally won one. We're delighted. I think in the end we deserved it.

"We thought they might tire in the last 20 minutes or so of normal time. We felt we could go on and win it, and we did."

Harpur now has seven goals this season and remained cool when handed the chance to put Dungannon in front.

It came in the 104th minute when Kris Lowe was fouled, with Harpur sending the goalkeeper the wrong way from the resulting penalty.

He said: "It was going through my head about which way to go - I wasn't sure, so I watched the goalkeeper. I kept my eye on him and saw him go to his right, so I went to my right. I let him make the first move.

"The main thing is getting to the final and I'm over the moon for everyone around this club.

"It's been coming for so long. The last big final was in the Irish Cup, this is our first time in the League Cup final.

"In the first half I was very frustrated because we couldn't really do anything.

"It was just about trying to stay in the game and not let them score. The boys were saying to keep going and that the goal would come, and thankfully in the end we got the victory."

Dungannon have to wait until Tuesday night to discover who they will face.

Cliftonville and Ballymena meet in the other semi-final, however Harpur doesn't care who they end up playing.

"We've beaten both in recent times," he added. "They are two good teams. We'll take either. We're just happy to have got to the final."

Swifts boss Rodney McAree said: "Whenever you play Crusaders you know you can concede but it was important that we re-grouped, tried to stay in the game as long as we could and see what we could get out of it.

"Over the 120 minutes I thought we deserved to win - we showed great spirit, togetherness, fight and endeavour.

"We fought and showed a positivity that has been absent recently. Crusaders have played a lot of games so we played at a high tempo and hoped they would run out of steam."

Belfast Telegraph

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