Linfield manager David Healy has admitted that yesterday’s stunning Irish Cup loss to Queen’s University was the lowest point of his football career and his life.
In one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history, the Championship outfit deservedly defeated the Irish League Champions 2-1 at the Dub with a fantastic first-half strike from Marc McKenna and Jonah Mitchell’s expertly taken late penalty after Shayne Lavery had levelled for the Blues.
While the Queen’s players celebrated, Healy reflected on an “humiliating and embarrassing” result which leaves Linfield needing to retain the League title to save their season.
Northern Ireland’s record scorer stated: “That will haunt me for the rest of my days.
“It’s unforgivable. I’m embarrassed, humiliated and humbled. I’ve experienced many highs and many lows but this is the lowest I have felt at any stage in football and in life.”
Queen’s boss Peter Thompson, whose team host Glentoran in round six, declared: “People asked why we didn’t take the game to Windsor. This is why.
“We have worked tirelessly to get our senior status. Why would we give it up to go to Windsor? To win was sensational. The players were magnificent.”
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After the final whistle, he brought his team together in a huddle to rejoice in one of the biggest Irish Cup upsets in history.
He wanted the players to savour what they had just achieved, telling them they deserved their staggering success.
At the same time, David Healy and his side were walking towards their dressing room at The Dub to start an inquest into what was — in the Linfield manager’s words — an ‘embarrassing and humiliating’ result for them.
Perhaps not since the Blues were defeated by then B Division Carrick Rangers in the 1976 Final has there been a greater shock for Linfield. Queen’s are in seventh place in the Championship and have lost 12 out of 22 League games.
Yet yesterday they played like Kings.
Every single one of them shone.
Goalscorers Marc McKenna and Jonah Mitchell excelled. Ditto Matthew Hughes.
Right back Joshua Corry was fantastic and left back Ronan Young perhaps the brightest star of all.
Then there was Ben Mulgrew, brother of Linfield’s legendary skipper Jamie. What a shift the younger sibling put in.
As hungry as the home side were from the first whistle, Linfield lacked the drive and creativity that made them champions last term.
Remember this is the side that kicked off the season with sensational performances and a stirring Europa League run that earned the club a million quid and almost a place in the group stages.
They were a shadow of that yesterday.
Unless the Champions buck up their ideas, this campaign will end in failure. They are out of all the cup competitions and need to retain their League title to salvage the domestic season.
Queen’s opened the scoring on 39 minutes with McKenna (left) and Mulgrew winning the ball from Bastien Hery in his own half. McKenna surged forward before smashing in from the edge of the box.
The warning signs had been there. Two minutes before, Linfield’s Rohan Ferguson pulled off a fantastic save to keep out Hughes after sublime approach play from Corry and Mitchell.
Blues skipper Mulgrew and Mark Stafford hit the bar either side of the break prior to substitute Shayne Lavery powering in a header from Kirk Millar’s corner on the hour.
Linfield were enjoying their best spell of the game and would surely go on and win but, criminally, they took their foot off the pedal and Queen’s roared past them.
With 15 minutes left, Brendan Glackin pressurised Stafford into giving away a penalty for handball and Mitchell stepped up to confidently strike the spot-kick home.
Jimmy Callacher had the ball in the net late on but was ruled offside. The truth is Linfield didn’t merit extra-time.
Queen’s were worthy of an historic win having outfought and out thought the Blues.
What a day for long serving chairman Denis Clarke, the players and manager Thompson who insisted when the draw was made that the game be played on their home turf rather than switching to Windsor Park.