Goalkeeper Jordan Williamson reckons the hurt from losing last year’s Final can help Ballymena United produce a shock in Tuesday night’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Semi-Final against Linfield at Mourneview Park.
The Sky Blues were ambushed late in extra-time when Robbie McDaid hit a priceless winner for Glentoran in late July — it’s a defeat that still hovers like a dark cloud over David Jeffrey’s boys.
Williamson insists United now have the chance of erasing the agony, but they must zap the challenge of David Healy’s Linfield before they can even begin to contemplate successive Finals.
“It’s a massive game,” said the shot-stopper. “It’s always nice to go on a Cup run. We went all the way to the Final last year.
“If we are going to do it this year, we’ve got to beat the biggest club in the League. To be honest, the hurt from last year will certainly be a big incentive for us.
“We probably deserved penalties at the very least, but they scored with about two minutes of extra-time remaining.
“We have no fears, on our day we can beat any team in the League. There will be no pressure on us. Linfield go into the game as big favourites, that suits us.
“We will be the underdogs, so it’s a free one. We’ll go there and give it our best shot. On our day, we can beat any side in the League – we’ll require no motivation, that’s for sure.
“It has been a weird season, playing Tuesday-Saturday for the last clatter of months.
“It’s been tough on all the clubs, although some of them are full-time and have a better chance of recovery.”
Williamson has sampled the delights of European football, and he would relish another chance to appear on that stage.
He added: “We still have hopes of achieving European football through either the Irish Cup or the Play-Offs, although that is maybe a big ask.
“We haven’t taken our sights off a seventh-place finish in the League table just because we are in the Irish Cup – it’s a massive end of the season for us.
“When I first signed for the club, I was lucky enough to go to the Faroe Islands and then Sweden – they were two brilliant experiences. It’s something I want to experience again.”
Williamson also stressed that the Sky Blues have probably two of the hottest properties in the Irish League in the form of strikers Shay McCartan and Paul McElroy.
“They have been magnificent for us,” he added. “Big Ryan Waide has also chipped in with important goals – he is a nephew of mine.
“The boys have been great signings. I would suggest that Shay is probably the best player in the League. You can tell he played full-time football at a good level.
“When it comes to big games, he’s always on the money. He’s scored some important goals for us.
“The boys have all played their part and we have been really solid at the back, it makes my job a lot easier.”
Even though United failed to nail down a top-six spot in the League table, Williamson admits that injuries played some part in that.
“I know the boss doesn’t like to make injuries an excuse, but we had a horrendous injury list earlier in the season, something like 12 first-team regulars out, including myself,” he added.
“When boys like Leroy Millar, Kofi Balmer and Andy McGrory are out long-term, you are bound to feel the pinch. It was a case of big players missing big games.
“Thankfully, they are all coming back at the right time.”