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Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton 'still a real threat' on the pitch

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Eddie McCallion has won two FAI Cups with Derry City, both under dramatic circumstances in 2002 and 2006

Eddie McCallion has won two FAI Cups with Derry City, both under dramatic circumstances in 2002 and 2006

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Eddie McCallion has won two FAI Cups with Derry City, both under dramatic circumstances in 2002 and 2006

Eddie McCallion is urging Gary Hamilton to pick himself in the Glenavon line-up for Saturday's Irish Cup final.

The pair have been close friends since their teenage years, meaning McCallion is well aware of how much of a talent his boss is.

The player-manager, however, has made only seven league starts this season, completing the 90 minutes on only four of those occasions, while leaving the striking duties to the likes of Guy Bates, David Rainey and more recently, January signing Tiarnan Mulvenna.

Given how the season has panned out, it is more likely that Hamilton will be on the bench for Saturday's Windsor Park showdown with Ballymena United, but McCallion is hoping that the desire to play in the biggest match of the season will play a part in the manager's decision.

"I've known Gary for a long time, since our days together at Blackburn Rovers over 15 years ago," said McCallion.

"As a manager he is first class and he has done well so far – his record is very good and getting to the Irish Cup final after just two full seasons is a great achievement.

"He is still a fantastic player, but I don't know if he will pick himself in the team for Saturday.

"I would love Gary to put himself in and I think a fit Gary Hamilton is still very difficult for defenders to handle.

"Having him in the team would give us a better chance of winning the Irish Cup, but just to have him involved at all improves our chances."

Glenavon haven't lifted the Irish Cup in 17 years. McCallion's history in knockout competitions is more recent, having lifted the FAI Cup with Derry City in both 2002 and 2006.

Each of those finals finished in dramatic circumstances, with a late Liam Coyle goal giving the Candystripes victory 12 years ago, before a dramatic 4-3 extra-time win four years later.

McCallion would be happy to avoid the drama this time around, provided that the cup is heading up the M1 afterwards, rather than the M2.

"I have great memories of winning the FAI Cup with Derry City, with the excitement and the build-up before hand that is a big part of it," said the 35-year-old, who had only ever played for his hometown club before joining Glenavon.

"It's a long time since Glenavon were in a final and it's a really big thing for the club and the fans.

"These occasions are great to be part of and they are great days, but I have lost in finals too and I know that you only really enjoy it when you win."

Belfast Telegraph