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Ross Glendinning: Ballymena have a different buzz now that awful league season is over

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Final say: Ross Glendinning (left) celebrates with Josh Kelly, James Knowles, Steven McCullough and Andy McGrory

Final say: Ross Glendinning (left) celebrates with Josh Kelly, James Knowles, Steven McCullough and Andy McGrory

�INPHO/Brian Little

Final say: Ross Glendinning (left) celebrates with Josh Kelly, James Knowles, Steven McCullough and Andy McGrory

Ballymena United goalkeeper Ross Glendinning has admitted that the Sky Blues were so poor earlier in the season that they were relieved to take a break from football in March. Now, he is relishing the prospect of finishing an "awful" campaign on a high.

Glendinning may not have made any saves in Ballymena's 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Coleraine in Monday's Irish Cup semi-final but he pulled off some valuable stops in normal time, including a stunning diving effort to keep out James McLaughlin's long-range strike in the seventh minute of injury time when the score was 1-1.

Left out of the Irish Cup decider in 2016 against Glenavon when he was at Linfield, Glendinning will be a key figure for David Jeffrey's side versus Glentoran on Friday night.

And there is plenty of family history to inspire him with dad Mark an Irish Cup winner during legendary spells with Glenavon and Glentoran.

The exciting build-up to the final is a far cry from the disappointment of the season before football was halted four months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Back then, Ballymena were in 10th position in the Irish Premiership and had lost the County Antrim Shield final to Cliftonville 2-1 after conceding twice in injury time.

"To be honest, we were all probably cheering when the break in the season came because the campaign for a number of reasons was awful," said Glendinning.

"There's been a different kind of buzz the last three or four weeks because the league season was wiped out and this was our focus.

"Our goal became the Irish Cup and that's all we have been focused on. We weren't great against Coleraine but it was all about getting to the final and we've achieved that.

"I don't think it was a great game. Coleraine went long a lot and we were a bit huff and puff but in extra-time I thought we looked fitter than Coleraine and shaded it and deserved to win."

Straight-talker Glendinning said "you just have to stand and clap" when speaking about Eoin Bradley's brilliant first-half free-kick which gave the Bannsiders the lead before a 94th-minute United equaliser from Kenny Kane. Then came the penalties with Stephen Lowry, Bradley and Ben Doherty all missing for Coleraine.

"I went the right way for all four of their penalties and I probably would have saved the first two if they were on target, but as long as we went through it doesn't matter," said Glendinning. "Doherty didn't look confident walking up to take their last penalty and I thought to myself he might miss, but he had played 120 minutes and his legs had probably gone.

"Thankfully, we have a few good penalty takers in our team and now we are in the final which I'm really looking forward to."

Asked about playing behind closed doors at Windsor Park, Glendinning said: "It was strange and getting a team talk outside from the manager David Jeffrey is something I've never experienced before but we'll be better accustomed to it come Friday night."

Belfast Telegraph