David Healy 'immensely proud' to complete Irish League trophy haul and prove Linfield's doubters wrong
Captain Jamie Mulgrew hit out at referee Andrew Davey
Criticism can be hard to handle, but Linfield manager David Healy gets a 'buzz' out of being written off.
He will certainly have had plenty of motivation coming into the current season, after a rare trophyless campaign for the Blues led to questions about the young manager's ability - whether he had won three trophies the year before or not.
Fast forward six months and Linfield have the first prize of the year safely stowed away after beating Ballymena United 1-0 in Saturday's first final of the domestic season.
The Bet McLean League Cup may not be the biggest prize in Irish League football but it was an incredibly significant win for Healy and his squad. It was the one trophy that had so far eluded the boss - in fact no Linfield manager had won it since 2008.
To complete the set in only his third season of management sits well with the Linfield boss.
"Absolutely," he said. "These boys give me stick about being highly critical and I am - as a team and personally. Am I proud? Immensely proud.
"I'm proud every day I come to work, I feel privileged and lucky even when the supporters are giving me a bit of stick.
"I don’t enjoy it but I try and use it. The journalists that wrote me off last year, I get a buzz of it. It happened as a player and last year I was written off as a young, out of his depth manager. I thrive off that and I try and use it.
"Talking about the players being questioned and written off; 10 of the starting 11 tonight were part of that last year. They took a battering last year and to respond as they have so far this year is a credit to them."
It was a game that saw Ballymena dominate the play, without reward, after Andy Waterworth's 15th minute goal.
It also saw Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew spend a lot of his time on the ground, the victim of a series of what his boss feels were calculated fouls. The worst came before the break, when Ballymena skipper Jim Ervin flew in with an x-rated challenge that could, and perhaps should, have brought a red card.
"Jamie’s the most fouled player in the league, I’ve no doubt about it," said Healy - who was quick to point out that he in no way suspected malice on Ervin's behalf. "Teams get away with it because I think it’s rotated who kicks him. I’m sure word gets about who has to kick him next so nobody gets a second yellow.
"Am I surprised? No because it’s a cup final.
“If that was a league game today, the ref would have sent Jim Ervin off. Because it was a cup match, showpiece, on TV, he didn’t have the nerve to send Jim off. Jamie was sent off for a nothing tackle in a league game against Cliftonville. Jim has been a credit to Linfield and Ballymena, but it was a poor challenge. And Jamie is fortunate it wasn’t worse than it was.”
Mulgrew himself was incensed at the handling of the situation.
"I’m used to it now and I take it as a compliment," he said. "It shows I’m maybe doing something right.
"I’m always asked to do my job and represent Linfield in a professional manner. I’m not saying I’m a saint because I’m not but when you’re getting challenges like today and you’re being told (by referee Andrew Davey) to get up - do you think that’s professional? That’s not his call for him tell me to get up. That’s what disappoints me the most."
And what of the goal-scorer? He only found out a day before the game that he'd be in the starting line-up.
"I was sweating for my place all week," Waterworth said. "The two other boys have been doing well which is great for us and I’ve been below par for the past few weeks. I was delighted to get the call and hopefully I’ve repaid him. It’s me this week but it’s a team game."
He might play it down but he has a habit of scoring on big moments - the back to back hat-tricks to land league and Irish Cup glory in 2017 spring to mind.
"Any occasion when we need a big goal, you think who’s going to give you the clutch moment in the game. Andy produced a wonderful goal today," said Healy.
So if trophies come in threes or not at all for Linfield under David Healy, does that mean there's a couple more to follow?
"No we’re looking to beat Ballymena next week. It’s massive for us," said Healy, when asked if more silverware was the next goal.
And he's right, six points clear of United but having played a game more, next week's top two clash at Windsor Park is a huge Danske Bank Premiership tie.
Belfast Telegraph Digital