Delighted David Jeffrey hailed his brave and bold warriors, along with unlikely sparring partners Harryville Homers and Crumlin United, after his Ballymena United side shocked derby rivals Coleraine to seal their place in the Irish Cup final on Friday night against Glentoran.
In the first senior Irish League match since March due to the coronavirus lockdown and played without spectators, the Sky Blues won 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out at Windsor Park following a dramatic 1-1 draw after extra-time.
And boss Jeffrey, who will be attempting to win his eighth Irish Cup as a manager, conceded some behind-closed-doors extra penalty practice in friendly matches paid off handsomely and allows the Braidmen to shoot for a place in lucrative European competition.
"We had a couple of practice matches, thank you very much indeed to Harryville Homers and Crumlin United, and as part of those games we included penalty practice, so we left nothing to chance," said the former Linfield boss.
Ballymena, having finished 10th in the Danske Bank Premiership, will now aim to be a surprise package for the second time in a week when they face Glentoran in Friday's decider at Windsor.
The Glens, similar to Ballymena earlier in the day, secured their place in the showpiece occasion thanks to a penalty shoot-out, but it was a marathon affair. After the match finished 1-1 at the end of normal and extra-time, the Glens triumphed 7-6 in the shoot-out, with goalkeeper Elliott Morris the hero, saving from Conor McDermott in sudden death.
Jeffrey added: "Let's be brutally honest, no one outside of Ballymena United thought we would be in the final, and I understand that. Now we will try to make sure we get recovered as quickly as we can and go again."