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Keefe urges his Giants to end the trophy wait and join wall of greats

By Stuart McKinley

Not that long ago, the Belfast Giants' home arena not only underwent a name change but was also given a bit of a refurbishment.

As part of the facelift, the dressing room areas were given a smart and fresh new look.

Walk down the tunnel to the inner sanctum of the Giants' players and staff and on either side you will see beaming smiles on the faces of players holding silverware looking down at you.

It is something of a Giants Hall of Fame, with each of their trophy successes since the first, the Superleague title of 2002, celebrated.

It also serves as a reminder of how quickly a team founded only in 2000 established themselves as contenders for silverware.

There is space for at least one more giant picture and Adam Keefe - whose trophy-winning smile already adorns those walls - is determined to fill it .

And he wants to do it now.

Keefe was the last Giants captain to lift a trophy and for everyone concerned, the wait since the 2014 Elite League triumph is too long.

That's why tomorrow evening's Challenge Cup final against the Cardiff Devils, in their own Ice Arena Wales home, is such a big game for Keefe in his first season as coach of the team.

"It's been a long time coming for the fans, the city and the players who have been part of the club since 2014," said Keefe.

"Our goal every season is to win trophies and now we have the opportunity to do that.

"It's huge for me in my career as a coach and it's the one trophy that has eluded me. I just couldn't win it in my six years as a player here, so I want to get my hands on it."

The expectation levels went high very early in the life of the Belfast Giants, partly down to the fact that the team won that league title in 2002 and then the Play-offs a year later and partly down to the huge fanbase that was almost instant when they first hit the ice in 2000.

It isn't something that Keefe fears. If anything, it's the opposite. He has embraced the demand for trophies that comes from the Giants fans and that is what is driving him on, not just ahead of tomorrow's final but since the start of his coaching career last summer.

"I don't feel nervous," said Keefe. "It is nice for us to be in with a chance of winning a trophy. I think this team deserve to win a trophy and they deserve to be able to call themselves champions after some of the things we have been through this season.

"The fans have waited patiently for a trophy and this is a big chance for us to end that wait."

Playing a final in the home arena of the opponents is never an ideal situation, but if there is a team that shouldn't fear such circumstances it is the Giants.

They have already won twice in Cardiff this season - although the Devils did win last Sunday's dress rehearsal - as well as notable successes in Nottingham and Sheffield.

Add in the fact that in a 10-game run of consecutive away matches earlier in the season the Giants won eight times and the ability to win key games on the road is there for all to see.

"We know we can compete with Cardiff and we know we can win on the road," said Keefe.

"We have to look at this as a road game that we have to win - and we have done that a lot this season.

"There are no excuses, just go in and get the job done.

"We know what is at stake and I think that we need to be at our best to win the game. When it comes down to these games it is about winning and not how you play, but very rarely do teams play badly and win trophies."

Before the final, the Giants face Milton Keynes Lightning in an Elite League game at the SSE Arena tonight.

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