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Liggett setting sights on more history

Striker looking back at Distillery's League Cup heroics as inspiration for Loughgall's quest to rock Cliftonville


Glory boy: Gary Liggett with Loughgall coach Andy Smith

Glory boy: Gary Liggett with Loughgall coach Andy Smith

Glory boy: Gary Liggett with Loughgall coach Andy Smith

Loughgall frontman Gary Liggett is taking inspiration from Lisburn Distillery's League Cup success in 2011 as he aims to blast Cliftonville out of the Irish Cup today.

Liggett was part of the Whites team that came from a goal down to beat Portadown 2-1 and clinch their first major trophy since 1993.

It was also a day when veteran striker Glenn Ferguson picked up his 30th winners' medal in Irish League football during his final campaign.

Now Loughgall are on a mission to make history as the Championship side have never reached an Irish Cup decider.

The premier knockout tournament in domestic football hasn't been kind to 30-year-old Liggett but he's hoping to put that right today.

"I've been around the Irish League for about 10 years but never come this close to a final," said Liggett, who netted in the 2-1 quarter-final win at Glenavon.

"I played for Dungannon Swifts in a quarter-final against Ballymena United but we didn't turn up.

"I was fortunate to win a League Cup with Lisburn Distillery and it's a wonderful historic achievement that means a lot because it's a club that is not recognised as being among the most successful.

"If this Loughgall side could get to an Irish Cup final it would set it apart from the other teams over the years and so that is the added incentive for us to go one step further.

"The Irish Cup is a special competition, it's got that added glamour and it would be a real privilege to be part of the showpiece.

"It's not a trophy which has been kind to me over the years so to reach a final with Loughgall would be something special."

Cliftonville kick off The Oval showdown as red-hot favourites to make their first final since 2013 when their treble dream was shattered by Glentoran.

Loughgall, however, are quietly confident they can spring yet another surprise after knocking out Ards and Glenavon.

"This is why you play the game, you want to test yourself against big teams and big players," said Liggett, who also had spells at Ballymena United, Dungannon Swifts and Ards.

"It doesn't get much bigger than an Irish Cup semi-final, especially for our club, a Championship side with aspirations of reaching a higher level.

"If you look at Cliftonville's squad they have Joe Gormley and the two Donnellys (Rory and Jay) but you could go on… Chris Curran, Ruairi Harkin and I think for us to have any chance of beating them we will need to stay solid and defend very well.

"Cliftonville will get chances to score but hopefully we can frustrate them for as long as possible and be clinical when a chance comes our way.

"The boys have kept things very calm this week and our manager Dean Smith will not let the occasion get to the younger players. There's been a level-headed approach to this game and everyone knows how tough it is going to be.

"I know we have beaten Ards and Glenavon to get this far but we are still up against it. If we can stop them playing and produce some great performances in our own team then we can cause them problems. There is no pressure on us and we will not show any fear. If we lose the game we will be disappointed but everyone expects us to lose it anyway!"

Liggett endured a frustrating time at Ards but he's playing with a smile on his face again.

"I had a few options in January but I was determined to get back to enjoying my football again," he added.

"It's not easy when you aren't playing every week but Loughgall and Dean seemed to be the right fit for me.

"The manager doesn't over-complicate things, he lets us play and I've been given a run of games. Hopefully I can score more goals for the club and get a big one at The Oval.

"It feels like a fresh start for me because six months ago I was travelling to Ards on my own and training while not getting the game time. It was tough but now I find myself one game away from the Irish Cup final.

"Fortunes can change quickly in this game and now for all of us it's about making the most of this great opportunity."

Belfast Telegraph