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Rebekah Reynolds puts her best foot forward for final

By John Flack

Ballymena will be relying on a talented footballer in their bid to make history by winning the Senior Cup for the second time as they prepare to face Raphoe in the final in Coleraine on Saturday (1pm).

Rebekah Reynolds, who topped the club's scoring charts last season, is back home from a soccer scholarship in the USA for the festive break.

The 21-year-old striker hit half of her team's goals in 2014-15 when she last played regularly for the Co Antrim club.

Rebekah was a member of the Ballymena side that won the inaugural Senior Cup two years ago when they defeated Cookstown in the final and they will be attempting to become the first team to lift the trophy for a second time.

Raphoe have made it to the decider for the first time, having only become eligible to take part this season, after securing promotion from Senior Two.

Both semi-finals went the distance, with Ballymena beating Knock on penalties after a 2-2 draw and the Donegal side edging out Banbridge on strokes following a 4-4 stalemate at Mossley.

There is very little to choose between the sides when you take a look at the league table as Raphoe are just one point ahead of their opponents.

So everything points to a close contest on Saturday although Ballymena will be hoping their star striker can make a difference.

Team coach Mary Glass is no stranger to success in knock-out competitions and she was among the first to congratulate Randalstown on their Denman Ulster Shield triumph on Boxing Day.

Glass is a former Town captain who led the team to Shield success back in 1991 and went on to lift back-to-back all-Ireland titles with the club when they were in their pomp.

In those days, second-tier teams like Ballymena took part in the group stages of the Shield until the introduction of the Senior Cup.

But the Braid coach feels that the relatively new competition is a welcome addition to the calendar.

"I think it's a great idea because, realistically, the Senior One teams were just making up the numbers and there were a lot of heavy defeats which didn't do any good," she said.

"The Cup gives all the teams in our league a chance to have a big day out and we are really looking forward to the final.

"It's great to have Becky back and available for the game - she has been at a few of our training sessions and she is looking very sharp.

"Obviously she hasn't lost any of her fitness as she has an intensive training regime in the United States which has kept her in good shape.

"But essentially we are a team without too many individual stars although Clare Gillespie is an inspirational captain and she hit one of our goals in the semi-final."

Glass, however, is expecting a tough game from Raphoe despite helping her team to a 4-0 win over the Donegal side in the group stages of the Senior Cup.

"That will have no bearing on the final whatsoever and if you look at Raphoe's results over the weekend when they played in the semi-finals they will back that up," she added.

"They lost 4-1 to Banbridge on the Saturday and then, after making a very long round-trip for the second day in a row, they beat them 24 hours later.

"I had a chance to watch them in the semi-final and they looked a very good side with a couple of very quick forwards."

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