Belfast Telegraph

Smyth will savour the chance to test himself against a top class attack

Big day: Matthew Smyth is determined to stand tall
Big day: Matthew Smyth is determined to stand tall

By Steven Beacom

Ballinamallard United defender Matthew Smyth is relishing the prospect of facing the fearsome frontline of Crusaders in today's Tennent's Irish Cup final at Windsor Park.

The 20-year-old, who lives a stone's throw from Ferney Park, was outstanding for Harry McConkey's side in their Irish Cup semi-final victory over Warrenpoint Town. Strong in the air and confident on the deck, Smyth was composed enough to net a penalty in the shoot-out.

McConkey will look to Smyth to shine once more in the decider. He has the pedigree having been with Stevenage in England and Dundee in Scotland as a teenager. Smyth also helped Arbroath to Scottish League two title glory before returning in 2017 to play for Ballinamallard.

With experiences like that in the bank, little wonder he is looking forward to taking on the quality of Paul Heatley, Jordan Owens and David Cushley.

"We played against Crusaders earlier in the season in the League Cup and there's no doubt about it they are a top side and Jordan Owens, Paul Heatley and David Cushley are all great players," said Smyth. "I'm looking forward to facing them because you want to play against the best you can and in the Irish League those three are right up there.

"In the semi-final with Warrenpoint we got a hold in the game early on and got on top of them. We had a lot of possession and pinned them back.

"We'll have to be even sharper on Saturday because we know the threat Crusaders have going forward so we have to settle quickly. It's the biggest match of my life. There's been so much hype surrounding the final. Now we just want to play."

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Behind youngster Smyth will be inspirational 42-year-old veteran goalkeeper John Connolly.

"John has been brilliant all season. He shows his experience and talks us through the game which is vital," said Smyth.

"Our team spirit is also great. You could see that in the quarter-final and semi-final victory when we dug in. Our fans were brilliant then and we'll have a lot more at the final which I think will really help us."

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