Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon's future is in safe hands with youth: Tuffey

Elder statesman: Jonny Tuffey hailed impact of rising stars
Elder statesman: Jonny Tuffey hailed impact of rising stars

By Graham Luney

Glenavon goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey believes his side have the perfect blend of youth and experience - just the recipe for Irish Cup success.

The former Northern Ireland international was the Lurgan Blues' elder statesmen as Gary Hamilton's side held Cliftonville to a 1-1 draw on Monday night.

But the 31-year-old must feel young at heart with an impressive number of gifted young players in the Mourneview Park dressing room.

Ahead of today's Tennent's Irish Cup sixth round showdown with Dungannon Swifts in Lurgan, Tuffey has hailed the impact of rising stars such as Mark Sykes and Bobby Burns - but you can't win anything with just kids.

"We do have a healthy balance of youth and experience and that gives the club a great platform to push on and be successful," said the former Linfield keeper.

"Good young players have broken through and Gary has shown he will give players opportunities to show what they can do and if they are good enough they will get a chance.

"If young players are good enough they will stay in the team and gain vital experience.

"In Monday's game we had seven players under the age of 23 and two or three under 20 while I was the oldest at 31. That's a real positive as it shows the future is bright. The lads don't only have ability and confidence, they have a strong work ethic and desire to be successful.

"Their game knowledge and awareness is improving all the time and that's a huge credit to themselves and the club as well as what Gary is trying to do.

"Their talent speaks for itself and if they keep working hard a decent career across the water could be ahead for them." The Swifts are on cloud nine after reaching the BetMcLean League Cup decider and Tuffey is expecting a tough assigment this afternoon.

"Glenavon have enjoyed considerable success in the Irish Cup but Dungannon had a massive result against Crusaders in the League Cup semi-finals and they are on the crest of a wave," he added. "They have a very good squad who work well together as a team and this will be a derby fixture that could be a cup classic.

"To be honest, there was no talk of winning titles at Glenavon, our focus has been on making the top six, qualifying for Europe and doing well in cup competitions.

"I think when you start talking about winning titles you are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself and we don't need that.

"You just want the younger players to express themselves and keep improving. Of course you go out to win every match and competition but you can't always do that. In the Irish Cup you get one crack at it and it's a fantastic competition and day out if you make the final."

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