Belfast Telegraph

Linfield stars have real belief in Healy, says Lowry

By Graham Luney

Stephen Lowry says the Linfield players are fully behind manager David Healy as they aim to finish a turbulent season on a positive note.

The Blues have a rich history of Irish Cup glory - they have won it 43 times and finished runners-up on 21 occasions, a record that is not under threat with Big Two rivals Glentoran the second most successful side, managing 22 victories.

Domestic football's premier knockout prize has always captured the imagination of the Linfield family but this season there is even greater importance attached to it given the Blues' poor title defence.

A massive 19 points adrift of league leaders Crusaders, the Blues' game in hand is no consolation as they pick through the wreckage of a Premiership campaign that has failed to take off.

Championship side Newry City AFC are at Windsor Park tomorrow for a sixth-round battle looking to crush Linfield's hopes of winning silverware this season and a home loss would intensify the pressure on manager Healy and his men.

The cup holders showed tremendous character to stage a late fightback against Coleraine in midweek and they will need all that fighting spirit to salvage some pride between now and May.

Midfielder Lowry admits performances have been below the standards expected at the club but he still has faith in his team-mates and the boss.

"Performances have clearly not been good enough but the players still believe in the manager and he has taken a bit of stick, as have the players, but we are big enough to deal with that," said the former Coleraine ace.

"You are there to be shot at when you're at Linfield and we understand the pressure and expectation.

"David and the players will do everything they can to put it right but I feel there have been a lot of forced changes which haven't helped us. Key players have been injured and we haven't had a settled team.

"Last season I played quite a bit with Jamie Mulgrew in the middle but even though I have made around 30 appearances this season I think I have only started one game with him. That's not the manager's fault and it's one example of how he's had to juggle the squad.

"Everyone accepts second best or worse is unacceptable and we are determined to raise our performance levels. I want to play as often as I can and score goals, hopefully helping the club win another Irish Cup."

Newry City AFC, who are third in the Championship, are very much a team on the up after rising from the ashes of financial oblivion.

"This game against Newry is massive but they will have no fear and be up for the challenge," added Lowry. "From our point of view we need to keep our season alive and last season's cup run gave us momentum in the league and helped us massively. We are in this game to win trophies.

"There's a recognition the title now looks a bridge too far for us but we still have to secure European football and hopefully finish on a positive note by winning the Irish Cup.

"I've won and lost Irish Cup finals and I know how that feels. It's always an important trophy but with our league form there's extra importance attached to it this season and you want to have those memories in football, whether you are a supporter or player.

"Despite our lack of consistency we know we are capable of beating anyone and league form doesn't matter. No one wants to play us in the competition because they know how big a threat we are."

Lowry, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has been linked with a move to his former club Coleraine and Ballymena United but it's understood the Blues want to keep hold of the midfielder and the 31-year-old is remaining focused on producing a strong finish to the campaign.

Belfast Telegraph

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