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Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Linfield manager David Jeffrey celebrates as they lift the JJB Sports Irish Cup after defeating Crusaders in the Final at Windsor Park.

Linfield manager David Jeffrey celebrates as they lift the JJB Sports Irish Cup after defeating Crusaders in the Final at Windsor Park.

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

7/5/11 Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com JJB Sports Irish Cup Final - Linfield v CrusadersCelebration as Linfield lift the JJB Sports Irish Cup at Windsor Park.

7/5/11 Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com JJB Sports Irish Cup Final - Linfield v CrusadersCelebration as Linfield lift the JJB Sports Irish Cup at Windsor Park.

Darren Kidd

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Brian Little

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Brian Little

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

©William Cherry/Presseye

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Irish Cup Final: Crusaders 1 Linfield 2

It was typical Linfield. They just never know when they are beaten.

That never-say-die attitude has brought them 50 Irish League titles and it delivered another double on Saturday.

That's five in the last six years now — an astonishing record.

There are players having to build extensions on their homes in order to house all the medals.

For a long time at the weekend, though, it looked like we were going to have a footballing rarity at Windsor Park — the Blues losing a big game.

Crusaders came into the JJB Sports Irish Cup final with plenty of confidence. Rightly so. They had run Linfield close in the title race and certainly had enough in their locker to emerge triumphant.

They started the better of the two sides, going in front through Declan Caddell's excellent strike in the 54th minute. It's a pity for the Crues that Caddell had not waited until the 94th. Even Linfield wouldn't have come back then.

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Once the Crues scored, you could sense Linfield players lifting themselves all over the park and, with manager David Jeffrey introducing Jamie Mulgrew (inset) from the bench, suddenly the Blues looked like champions. It was almost as if Caddell's goal had woken the giant from its slumber.

They were quicker to the ball, more determined in the tackle and a threat in the opposition half.

Mulgrew's exclusion from the starting line-up surprised a few but, as Jeffrey pointed out post match, squads win football matches in the modern era, not the XI who kick-off.

Mulgrew's quality shone through — it's no wonder SPL clubs are keen on him — with strikes from distance that Crusaders goalkeeper Chris Keenan couldn't hold.

Peter Thompson turned in the first and Mark McAllister the decisive second with just three minutes left.

It was brilliant forward play from those two who reacted sharper than the Crues defenders.

Thompson has been doing that throughout his career at Windsor.

He's an outstanding player for Linfield — his Irish Cup record is a phenomenal 28 goals in 29 games and he's netted in four finals.

First time around at the club, I felt he played with better players and, of course, had the iconic Glenn Ferguson alongside him.

Then came a move to Stockport which didn't work out but, not one to sulk or feel sorry for himself, Thompson returned home to Linfield and has continued where he left off, scoring goals in big games. And in his second spell he's done it without the influence of Ferguson.

Thompson is on his way to legendary status at Linfield, if he doesn't have it already.

David Jeffrey reached that status years ago.

The big man continues to produce. The pressure cooker was overheating at Windsor this season such was the desire amongst the board, fans, players and the gaffer himself to win silverware in the club's 125th year.

There was the usual talk during the campaign that Jeffrey was on his way out.

When other teams have a bad spell of form, it's generally over a month.

For Linfield it's a game – or a half!

The demands are extraordinary, yet if anything Jeffrey has gone beyond the expectation levels.

He takes so much abuse, I'm sure at times he must think whether the Linfield manager's job — part time in name only — is worth all the hassle.

What he has achieved for the Blues should see a statue of him placed at Windsor Park, not constant speculation about his future.

If he ever leaves, by his own accord or after being sacked by the management committee, he'll be virtually irreplaceable.

After all his successor — be that Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter, Lisburn Distillery's Tommy Wright or someone else — will have to win the double in his first season and keep winning the league and cup to be considered a hit.

Linfield go marching on — and, as long as the magnificent Jeffrey stays at the helm, no one will stop them.


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