Belfast Telegraph

Jeffrey hopes players do themselves justice this time

Raring to go: David Jeffrey ready for another big final
Raring to go: David Jeffrey ready for another big final

By Graham Luney

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey has warned Dungannon Swifts his boys will "fight their guts out" to retain the BetMcLean League Cup.

The Sky Blues won the trophy for the first time when they swept aside Carrick Rangers 2-0 at Seaview a year ago.

United were labelled favourites for that clash but this Windsor Park showdown in front of the Sky Sports cameras (5.30pm) is expected to be a fiercely contested tussle.

Swifts boss Rodney McAree has pleaded with his men to make history by steering the club to a first senior trophy but Jeffrey wants a very different outcome.

"Dungannon will have the motivation of going for a first trophy while for us it's obvious, we want to retain it and the players will fight their guts out to hold onto it," said Jeffrey.

"They know we won't let go it easily. I can remember the 2007 Irish Cup Final when Dungannon gave us a huge scare and we missed our first two penalties in the shoot-out.

"We want to keep the trophy and our win over Cliftonville in the semi-final underlined that desire but now it's about handling the big occasion and the players need to know they may not get many more opportunities like this."

The Braidmen will be without the suspended left-back Steven McCullough.

After a lean spell of 23 years without a trophy, United have become cup specialists in recent seasons, reaching an Irish Cup final, three County Antrim Shield showpieces and now three League Cup deciders in four years.

"I think it's a final which is fabulous for the league," added Jeffrey.

"No-one expected these two sides to go to the decider and it's pure magic. You also have two very evenly matches sides and in my eyes no-one is favourite. Both teams are capable of winning and it will come to who can perform on the night and perhaps enjoy that bit of luck you sometimes need.

"This is the fourth final for myself and Bryan at Ballymena in the sense that we've had the League Cup final, Europa League play-off final and County Antrim Shield defeat to Crusaders.

"I didn't feel we did ourselves justice against the Crues who were clinical on the night.

"What you always want to see is the players perform to the best of their ability.

"If they do that and something doesn't go their way you can take defeat.

"It's when they don't play anywhere near the levels we know they are capable of reaching, that's where the disappointment comes. We always ask the players to give their best but sometimes events conspire against you.

"In one game at Dungannon we had Willie Faulkner sent off and a penalty given against us, an example of decisions from the officials which can shape the game.

"We've done everything we can to prepare the players. Hopefully, when they cross that white line, they do themselves justice and the club proud."

Belfast Telegraph

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