Irish Cup - Final | Larne V Linfield

Official Digital Matchday programme of Irish Cup - Final | Larne V Linfield, Friday 21st May at the Mournview Park, Lurgan.





















Message from the President — 3 Chief Executive's Welcome — 5 Sponsor's Welcome — 5 Interview : Tiernan Lynch — 8 Interview : Jeff Hughes — 11 Interview : Fuad Sule — 12 Larne's Road to the 2021 Final — 14 Larne Squad — 16

Interview : David Healy — 21 Interview : Jamie Mulgrew — 22 Interview : Andy Waterworth — 25 Linfield's Road to the 2021 Final — 16 Linfield Squad — 28 The Match Officials — 30 The Road to the 2021 Final — 32 The History of the Irish Challenge Cup — 34












On behalf of the Irish Football Association, and the Challenge Cup Committee in particular, I extend a warm welcome to the officials, players and supporters of both Larne and Linfield to Mourneview Park in Lurgan for the 2021 Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish FA Challenge Cup Final. to officiate a Challenge Cup final. I hope they all enjoy the occasion. It is a special occasion too for Glenavon Football Club, led by long serving and well respected chairman Adrian Teer, as they were asked to host the final stages of the 2021 competition.

Necessary repairs to the playing surface and surrounds at the National Football Stadium, together with disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulted in the final being taken out of Belfast for the first time since 1975 when it was staged in Ballymena (Coleraine v Linfield, three matches (two replays) and success for Coleraine). That disruption and delay in the commencement of senior football will take the league playoffs into June, while the Challenge Cup, despite the committee reducing the number of participants to 32 clubs, was only given the go-ahead at the end of March and the competition has been brought to a climax over a four-week period. The long wait for supporters to return is over as the Irish FA, working with government and health authorities, has taken the opportunity to effectively run the match as a significant test for outdoor events. The finalists make the journey to Lurgan on the back of contrasting semi-finals, both of which were played on Tuesday evening at Mourneview Park. Larne won the first semi against Crusaders via a penalty shootout following a 1-1 scoreline after 90 minutes, while Linfield had that little bit extra in their 3-0 defeat of Ballymena United. Let’s hope we have an exciting game of football tonight, played in the best spirit of fair play. It is a special day for the match referee, Andrew Davey, and his team who have the opportunity

The ground has been the scene of much activity over the last 10 days in preparation for the three matches and the Challenge Cup Committee’s thanks are due to all those from the club who have given of their time freely, together with the excellent Irish FA staff under the leadership of Andrew Johnston, our Head of Competitions and Player Status. The playing surface is in excellent condition and a credit to this homely club, so well done to the groundsman in its preparation. My thanks also goes to Sadler’s for the continued support and sponsorship of the Irish Challenge Cup, which adds value to the competition. Finally, the most important people to think about tonight are the supporters of both clubs, all of whom have been starved of live action for five months. Thank you for attending and I hope you help create a good cup final atmosphere. Enjoy the game and have a safe journey home. David J Martin President Irish Football Association






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“It’s the Irish Cup Jim, but not as we know it” is possibly what Mr Spock of the Starship Enterprise would have said if he had landed in Northern Ireland this week (although apparently he never uttered that phrase in the Star Trek series).

Welcome to this year’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Final at Mourneview Park in Lurgan. The oldest cup competition in our history has been both truncated and accelerated this season, starting less than a month ago and being played to a finish tonight between Larne and Linfield. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to think and do differently in many walks of life, and football has been no different. Many leagues and competitions have not been able to be played during season 2020-2021 and the record books will in time contain many asterisks and explanations, and in these trying circumstances we are delighted that the Irish Cup has not fallen by the wayside. Another change for this season, of course, is the venue for the final. Not since 1975 when the Irish Cup decider was won by Coleraine in a second replay at the Ballymena Showgrounds has this showpiece match left Belfast. This year, due to pitch renovation work at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, we have travelled down the M1 to be hosted by our friends at Glenavon FC. Tonight’s two teams will be no strangers to Mourneview Park, having come through their semi-finals here as recently as Tuesday evening. Linfield shrugged off last year’s beaten finalists Ballymena United, while Larne needed a penalty shootout to get past four-time winners Crusaders.

The trophy engraver has added Linfield’s name to the cup no less than 43 times since the competition began in 1881, but if Larne prevail this evening it will be for the first time in their 132-year history that they will be crowned Irish Cup champions. Winners of the County Antrim Shield already this season, they have emerged as a major force in domestic football in the last few years since Kenny Bruce took over and invested heavily in the club. Tonight we are also delighted to welcome 1000 supporters into the ground to witness the Irish Cup final. This has been classed as a learning event in terms of helping us all to understand how we deal with what will hopefully be a post Covid-19 environment and we thank our partners at The Executive Office, Department for Communities and Department for Health who have helped to plan for supporters to be admitted. It is important that everyone present completes their lateral flow testing programme so that good data can be captured to inform future events. Enjoy the match and congratulations in advance to the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup winners

for 2020-2021! Patrick Nelson Chief Executive Irish Football Association











What drama we had on semi-finals day! Elation to despondency and back again in a heartbeat, in that special way only the cup can really deliver.

So after that day and night of tense back to back matches at Mourneview Park, our final two, Linfield and Larne, return to the same arena to go again and this time for the main prize: to be the 2021 winners of the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup. As we look forward to what promises to be a scintillating clash between the serial winning giants of Linfield and the coming force in Irish League football that is Larne, we can also now begin to look back at the circumstances that have led to us having one of the longest tournaments in Irish Cup history last season followed by what’s sure to be one of the shortest this year. The impact of Covid-19 has cast a shadow across so much of our lives, with football far from an exception. Last July we were heralding the return of football for the semi-finals and final of the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup, and now closing in on 10 months and a football season largely without fans

later we are eagerly anticipating the gradual and hopefully complete restoration of supporters to our football stadiums. We have under way a remarkable vaccination effort by our health workers that will allow us to return in a short time to some normality, with the crowds now queuing outside leisure centres and arenas to receive jabs soon to be queuing instead at turnstiles and once again going to a match. Whether it’s to be Linfield for the 44th time or Larne lifting the cup for the first time, we know we will have worthy winners tonight. Well done to both teams for coming through the intensity of the various rounds in under five weeks to contest the final in the hope of becoming the 2021 Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup champions. Samuel Amfo-Okoampah Country Manager Halewood Wines & Spirits – Sponsor




Tiernan Lynch will be a proud man when he leads out Larne in tonight's Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup final against Linfield at Mourneview Park.

Appointed Larne boss in 2017, Lynch has taken the Co Antrim team from the Championship to the Irish Premiership, helped make them a force to be reckoned with in the top flight and inspired them to trophy success earlier this season when winning the County Antrim Shield. Guiding the Inver Park outfit to Irish Cup glory though would top the lot. Before this year Larne had been to five finals losing every one. Lynch would love to make history for owner Kenny Bruce and everyone

over Crusaders, which Larne won 6-5 after the teams were locked at 1-1 following 90 minutes, Lynch says he looked away as penalties were taken and re-taken and opposition goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey was sent off. "I didn't really watch any of the penalties. I don't know why I didn't watch them. I guess I thought what's going to be at that stage is going to be," said Lynch.

"I stood at the dug-out and looked up at the stands. I could get a sense of what went on but the biggest thing for me was that I was super proud of my players. I thought they were outstanding. The club has been pushing for finals and this is where we want to be and this squad has got us there. "They have to enjoy the

connected to the club. "The final will be very

special. We have never won it before and there is a lot of history that goes with it," said Lynch. "We still might not win it but being there is a proud moment for everyone at the club, our owner (Kenny

occasion of getting there and we are looking forward to the final." On the semi-final action prior to spot-kicks in which Larne's Ronan Hale levelled Philip Lowry's deadlock breaker for Crusaders prior to Seaview star Adam Lecky being sent off with 75 minutes on the clock, Lynch said: "We were horrific in the first half and didn't string two passes together and looked all over the place. “We regrouped at half-time, made one or two changes and I thought we were superb. No disrespect to Crusaders at all but I thought we should have won the game in 90 minutes."

Bruce), our staff and our board, our chairman (Gareth Clements) and our general manager (Niall Curneen) and our fans." Trying to keep a lid on his emotions, Lynch added: "This is a big step for us and a big statement for us to reach the final. Just getting there is very emotional and if we win I'll let myself go. "We still haven't achieved anything and have to be careful in what we do and what we say. It's there for us and we need to keep working hard." While most of those inside Mourneview Park on Tuesday for the cup semi-final couldn't take their eyes off the dramatic penalty shoot-out victory

Words: Steven Beacom





Jeff Hughes was 19 when he played for hometown club Larne in the 2005 Irish Cup final. Tonight 16 years on and now 35 the former Northern Ireland international will feature in the decider again. T H E C A P T A I N

In between the calm-as-you-like Larne skipper with a peach of a left foot enjoyed an impressive career in England. Hughes played for Lincoln City, Crystal Palace, Peterborough on loan, Bristol Rovers, Notts County, Fleetwood Town, Cambridge United and Tranmere Rovers, winning two Northern Ireland caps in the process. While immensely proud of all he achieved across the water, Hughes openly admits nothing gives him a bigger thrill than seeing Larne thrive and be successful. Hughes was the hero when Larne won the County

"We got pummelled in the quarter-finals and scraped through, the same happened in the semi- finals and then in the final against Portadown we got hammered in the game and with the scoreline. "It taught me that fairytales don't always come true in football. This year we've got there but we have won nothing yet. We have to come down to earth and prepare well." Relishing the fact that there will be supporters at the final, Hughes admitted he went through an emotional rollercoaster during the semi-final penalty shootout success against Crusaders on Tuesday. Shane Andrews and assistant Stephen Bell adjudged that the former Northern Ireland man had moved off his line before the ball was struck, meaning the spot kicks had to be retaken and subsequently scored. For encroachment Tuffey was booked and then sent off, leading to Billy Joe Burns going in goal for the remainder of the penalties won 6-5 by Larne. Hughes said: "I've never ever seen anything like that before. To be fair to the referee he came to the captains before the penalties and said make sure your goalkeeper has at least one foot on the line or he will be pulled on it. He warned us to warn our goalkeepers. “There were so many highs and lows during the penalties and then it ended on an amazing high for us." In the shootout Crusaders goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey saved three penalties (one from Andy Mitchell and two from Joshua Robinson) but on each occasion referee

Antrim Shield on penalties against Glentoran this season and now he is 90 minutes away - and possibly another shoot-out - from lifting a trophy that Larne have never won before.

Building towards the 2021 decider at Mourneview Park against Linfield, memories of the 2005 final against Portadown at Windsor flooded back for the midfielder. Over a decade and a half ago Larne beat Ballymena in the semi-finals having overcome Loughgall following a replay in the quarters. In the final the Ports whacked them 5-1 in what turned out to be Hughes' last game before moving to Lincoln as a teenager. He would not return to Larne until 2018. "It's been a long time since the last final," said Hughes. "It was fantastic to play at Windsor Park that day for Larne in the Irish Cup final. It was the proudest moment of my career. It was also an emotional day and it taught me how cruel football can be when I was very, very young.

Words: Steven Beacom



For Larne's midfield dynamo Fuad Sule reaching this year's Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup final felt like destiny. T H E D Y N A M O

Sule has been one of the players of the season in the NIFL Premiership and will be an important performer for his side in tonight's decider against Linfield in Lurgan. In head to heads this season Larne have a better record against the Blues and Sule has been key to that. Last weekend he was brilliant in Larne's 2-1 league victory over Linfield at Windsor Park and will be hoping for the same outcome at Mourneview. Sule was honest enough to admit that Tiernan Lynch's side had some fortune in their compelling

patrolling that area, there could be a battle royale in the middle of the park. The Larne man believes that if his team can bring their second half semi-final performance to the party rather than their first half display they have every chance of taking the Irish Cup back to Inver Park for the first time ever after five previous falls at the final hurdle for the club. "At 1-1 we had two or three chances to win it and in that second half it was some shift from the boys," stated Sule. "I thought with our second half performance we

semi-final victory earlier this week and not just in the much debated penalty shootout when Crusaders goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey saved three spot kicks only to be told he had jumped the line before those penalties were struck.

deserved to go through. We were brilliant compared to the first half when the boys were a bit jittery and nervous. "We knew we were better than what we produced in the first half in terms of how we can play. We regrouped at half-time and said we were going to give it a rattle so we could look at ourselves and say we gave it our best shot.

Before all that, and Tuffey's red card in the shootout won 6-5 by Larne, Ross Clarke hit the post early in the second period for the Crues when they were leading 1-0. It wasn't too long after that make or break moment that Ronan Hale levelled the tie at 1-1. "In cup competitions it is not necessarily the best team that wins it. Sometimes you need a bit of luck," said Sule. "They hit the post when they were leading and at 2-0 the game's over, and then with the penalties I think the way it happened it was written in the stars that we would reach the final." With Sule in the Invermen’s engine room and Linfield's inspirational skipper Jamie Mulgrew

We did that and got our just rewards." Already a winner with Larne in the County Antrim Shield this season, Sule appreciates the Irish Cup is an even bigger prize. "The shield was our first trophy together. After that we craved more and there's no bigger carrot than the Irish Cup and we will go again in the final and hopefully do ourselves proud," he said. "We will go into the game trying to win it. We would never ever set up for penalties or try to hold out for a draw. We like to get on the front foot and play attacking football."

Words: Steven Beacom



L A R N E ' S R O A D T O T H E 2 0 2 1 F I N A L

The journey to today’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup decider against Linfield got tougher for Larne with each round. Tiernan Lynch’s side were given a bye in round one after Championship side Newry City AFC decided to withdraw from the competition. In round two Larne enjoyed a stroll in the park at Inver Park against Dollingstown, who play in the NIFL Premier Intermediate League. Things got a little trickier in the quarter-finals when they squeezed past fellow Premiership side and near neighbours Carrick Rangers at Inver Park. And then, on Tuesday, they needed a dramatic penalty shootout win against another NIFL Premiership team, Crusaders, to reach the final.

Larne's Ronan Hale celebrates after scoring his side's equalising goal against Crusaders in the semi-final

ROUND TWO Larne 8-1 Dollingstown

Larne booked their place in the quarter-finals in some style with an 8-1 win at home to Dollingstown. Ronan Hale hit a fine hat-trick, while Marty Donnelly and Dylan Mottley-Henry grabbed two goals apiece and Larne FC academy scholar Matty Lusty scored on his senior debut. Larne opened the scoring on 10 minutes when Mottley-Henry turned home a Dean Jarvis cross. Tiernan Lynch’s team doubled their lead 20 minutes later. Tomas Cosgrove’s long range pass found Donnelly just outside the box and he slammed the ball home. Just after the restart former Larne midfielder Glen Hand pulled one back for the visitors, however two goals inside five minutes from Lynch’s men ensured his team would progress. Donnelly grabbed his second goal of the game on 52 minutes before Hale came off the bench to make it 4-1 with a fine finish from a tight angle. Hale scored again with 15 minutes to go. Fellow sub Lusty fired a cross in from the right, which was cleverly dummied by Donnelly, and Hale arrived to guide the ball into the net from just inside the box. Lusty then scored from the penalty spot – after he was fouled inside the box – before Mottley-Henry got on the scoresheet. He headed home from close range after Hale’s effort came back off the bar. And there was still time for Hale to leave with the match ball. He fired home from a Lusty cross on the stroke of full-time.


L A R N E ' S R O A D T O T H E 2 0 2 1 F I N A L

QUARTER-FINALS Larne 2-1 Carrick Rangers

The Invermen booked their place in the last four after a hard fought 2-1 win at home to Carrick Rangers. Kurtis Forsythe headed into his own goal and Larne striker Ronan Hale notched his 16th goal of the season to give Larne a comfortable lead at the break. But Jordan Gibson brought Carrick back into the contest just before the hour mark to set up a nervous finish. Larne started brightly and the early pressure bore fruit on 22 minutes. Marty Donnelly delivered a lovely cross into the area which was met by Forsythe 10 yards out and he inadvertently planted a header past his own keeper, Aaron Hogg. Larne doubled the lead eight minutes later thanks to a well worked goal. Skipper Jeff Hughes threaded a superb ball to Donnelly and his first-time cross was swept home by Hale, on the half volley, six yards out. Just before half-time Conor Mitchell replaced Conor Devlin in nets after the former Cliftonville man went down injured after collecting a corner. The home side had a great chance to kill the contest on 56 minutes, when Lee Lynch broke the offside trap to race clear of the Carrick defence but fired straight at the legs of Hogg. Within two minutes it was game on. Kyle Cherry’s corner from the left wasn’t dealt with by Conor Mitchell, who punched it up in the air, and Jordan Gibson was first to react by hooking the ball into an empty net. The closest Carrick came to an equaliser was in the final minute when full-back Reece Neale got behind the Larne rearguard, but the full-back fired well over the crossbar. Larne beat Crusaders 6-5 in a remarkable and dramatic penalty shootout to reach today’s final. The game at Mourneview Park on Tuesday ended 1-1 after 90-plus minutes and Tiernan Lynch's side won the shootout in the sudden death phase. During the spot kick drama Crues keeper Jonny Tuffey was given his marching orders following two bookable offences by referee Shane Andrews. Philip Lowry gave the north Belfast side the lead in the first half, while Ronan Hale equalised in the 58th minute. After latching on to a Jeff Hughes pass, he cut inside and drilled the ball low into the net. It was a neat finish. The Crues were on top in the opening 45 minutes but Larne had the better of it as the game wore on, especially after Crusaders striker Adam Lecky was red carded for a high challenge on Fuad Sule, however Tuffey and his defence stood firm. The spot kick drama unfolded with the score at 3-3 after both sides had taken four penalties apiece. The Crusaders goalkeeper saved Andrew Mitchell's spot kick only for the referee to award a retake after Tuffey was adjudged to have moved off his line too early. And Mitchell then scored. Daniel Larmour netted for the Crues to make it 4-4 on penalties before a dramatic sudden death phase. Tuffey saved Josh Robinson’s penalty and got a yellow card for moving off his line. The Crues keeper then saved the retake but received a second yellow - plus a red card - for the same offence. Robinson eventually scored with his third spot kick after Crues defender Billy Joe Burns had donned the goalie gloves. Crusaders’ Rodney Brown confidently fired home his penalty to make it 5-5 and John Herron scored a sixth penalty for Larne before Gary Thompson's spot kick came crashing back off the crossbar, sending Larne to the final. SEMI-FINALS Larne 1-1 Crusaders (6-5 pens)

Words: Nigel Tilson



Conor Devlin Goalkeeper // Age 29

Conor Mitchell Goalkeeper // Age 25

Graham Kelly Defender // Age 23

Albert Watson Defender // Age 35

The former Cliftonville stopper has been Larne’s first choice goalkeeper throughout Tiernan Lynch’s reign, but Devlin has been cruelly sidelined for today’s final due to a serious achilles injury. The 29-year- old has been a big part of the Inver Reds’ success this season and was the penalty shootout hero in the County Antrim Shield win.

Conor spent five years at English Premier League club Burnley. During his time at Turf Moor he had loan spells with St Johnstone and spent the second half of the 2018-19 season at Linfield before moving to Larne. Has grabbed his chance as first choice keeper following Conor Devlin’s injury.

The Dubliner can operate as a left-sided wing back or full-back and at centre back. The Sheffield United graduate has proven to be very dependable in his three years at the club. The highlight of his season so far was a spectacular equalising goal against Linfield at Inver Park.

One of the strongest competitors in the squad, Albert has been a mainstay in the Larne backline over the last two seasons. This will be the 35-year-old’s second Irish Cup final after winning the 2012 decider with Linfield. The rugged defender has been a full-time professional for almost 10 years.

Josh Robinson Defender // Age 27

Tomas Cosgrove Defender // Age 28

Dean Jarvis Defender // Age 28

Jeff Hughes Defender // Age 35

A winner’s medal today would complete Josh’s collection of major Irish League honours having won league championships at Linfield and Crusaders, the League Cup with the Blues and the County Antrim Shield with Crusaders and again this season with Larne. Josh is never too far away from drama having netted a couple of late winning goals this season.

An ever present in the Larne side, the right back has racked up the most minutes out of any Irish League player this season. Signed from Cliftonville in June 2018, he has helped the club to Premiership promotion as well as this season’s County Antrim Shield success, alongside a haul of medals from his Solitude days.

The left back is a Derry- Londonderry native who played at both Institute and Derry City before enjoying a medal-laden spell at Dundalk. Signed for Larne in January 2020 but unlikely to feature against Linfield tonight after breaking a bone in his foot against the same opposition in last weekend’s league game at Windsor.

Larne’s last Irish Cup final appearance, in 2005, was also his final one in a Larne shirt before a 13-year career in England. Returned to Inver Park in 2018 to help Larne win promotion and scored the winning penalty in this season’s County Antrim Shield final – Larne’s first senior trophy in 33 years.

John Herron Midfielder // Age 27

Fuad Sule Midfielder // Age 24

Mark Randall Midfielder // Age 31

Martin Donnelly Midfielder // Age 32

The former Celtic midfielder joined the Inver Reds from Glentoran in January 2020. After a tough few years with injuries, it looks like the Coatbridge man has found a home at Inver Park, where he has arguably been one of Larne’s most consistent performers this term. Herron’s box-to-box style has added an extra dimension to the Invermen’s midfield.

‘Fudzer ‘has been a firm fans’ favourite since he made the move to Inver Park from Barnet in 2018. The former Bohemians player is arguably the most effective defensive midfielder in the country. He is a master at breaking up play, using his power and strength to win possession for his side.

The former Arsenal man is one of Larne’s strongest creative influences. His languid style betrays the threat he poses with the ball at his feet. His vision and ability to execute a penetrating pass shows why he has plied his trade at a much higher level. He has the potential to be a match winner.

Donnelly won the Irish Cup with Crusaders in his first season in the Irish League, back in 2009. Since then he picked up a runners-up medal in 2014 with Cliftonville and a host of other honours including league titles and League Cup. This success has made the gifted midfielder one of the Irish League’s biggest names.



Andy Scott Midfielder // Age 20

Andrew Mitchell Midfielder // Age 29

Conor McKendry Midfielder // Age 22

Lee Lynch Midfielder // Age 29

The Northern Ireland under-21 player is in his first season with Larne after joining from Accrington Stanley. His opportunities in the first team have been somewhat limited, but he is viewed as a player for the future. He possesses pace and trickery which can be a handful for opposing defenders.

A former League of Ireland title winner with Sligo Rovers, where he played under Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough, Lee arrived at Larne in January 2019 and brings an abundance of energy to the side. He will hope to add an Irish Cup to his FAI Cup winner’s medal eight years ago.

After a spell at Manchester City as a youngster, Andy began his professional career at Rangers, helping them to win the Scottish Third Division. Has won numerous medals in stints with Crusaders and Linfield, before arriving at Inver Park in January 2020. Aiming for the first Irish Cup medal of his career.

Conor came through the youth ranks at both Larne and Glenavon before moving to Ipswich Town. He returned home to Larne in September 2019. After sustaining a serious ACL injury in January 2020, he returned to first team action this season, looking to force his way into Tiernan Lynch’s thinking.


Luke Wade-Slater Midfielder // Age 23

Dylan Mottley-Henry Forward // Age 23

Ronan Hale Forward // Age 22

Tiernan Lynch Manager Seamus Lynch Assistant Manager Tim McCann First Team Coach Gary Haveron First Team Coach Alan Blayney Goalkeeping Coach Michael O’Boyle Head Sports Therapist Joe Crawford Sports Therapist Stuart McCammon Assistant Sports Therapist Simon Paine Sports Massage Therapist Martin Bird Team Attendant

Dublin-born Luke began his career with a three-and-a-half-year stint at EFL club Stevenage before a move to Bohemians at the start of the 2019 League of Ireland season. He went on to make 35 appearances at Dalymount Park before arriving at Inver Park last summer. Has been an ever present in the squad without cementing a regular place in the team.

An attacker with electric pace, Dylan arrived on deadline day in January 2021 after his release from EFL League Two side Bradford City. The Englishman

Ronan has been Larne’s star man in this season’s Irish Cup, with five goals to his name, including a crucial equaliser in Tuesday’s semi-final. The 22-year-old is capable of scoring all kinds of goals, from the spectacular to the bread and butter. This is his first season for the Inver Reds and his goal tally of 18 so far has been an impressive return.

scored on his debut, but is unlikely to feature tonight

because of a hamstring injury picked up in last weekend’s win away to Linfield.

David McDaid Forward // Age 30

Johnny McMurray Forward // Age 26

Matty Lusty Forward // Age 17

If you look at all of Larne’s biggest moments across the last four years, David McDaid will have played a big part in almost all of them. Since joining the club in January 2018 his goals have fuelled the Inver Reds’ resurgence under Tiernan Lynch. The experienced frontman has scored goals in big games before, and tonight could be another big occasion where he leaves his mark.

Signed from Ballymena United in the summer of 2019, Johnny was enjoying a profitable first season in front of goal before it was cut short with an ACL injury. Made his return in November last season, but has had to battle with David McDaid and Ronan Hale for a starting berth.

The first player from the club’s new academy scholarship to earn first teamminutes. This came in the Irish Cup second round win over Dollingstown, where he also scored from the penalty spot and provided two assists. An exciting young talent who is growing into his role in the first team

Thanks to Ian Cahoon and Andrew Scullion for their assistance with Larne FC content.




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Whisper it quietly - and preferably out of earshot of the Linfield dugout - but David Healy is inching closer to an exclusive club.

Lift the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup this evening and the former Northern Ireland striker will complete the first half of a domestic double. Win at Coleraine in the league on Tuesday and he will add a third successive Gibson Cup to the Windsor Park trophy cabinet - and join legendary duo David Jeffrey and Roy Coyle as recent Linfield managers who won multiple doubles during their time at Windsor Park. Jeffrey, now managing Ballymena United, who lost to the Blues in Tuesday night’s semi-final at Mourneview Park, won six doubles during a memorable 17-year tenure in south Belfast.

“The players are fully focused on this final and I know they are hungry and excited going into another big game.” Healy freely admits last year’s shock Irish Cup defeat to Queen’s University at The Dub has helped fuel Linfield’s charge to the 2021 final. “I was embarrassed after losing to Queen’s last year and the memory of that defeat is never far from my mind,” he said. “It was a horrible day and I know the players were hugely disappointed, but this season has given us an opportunity to put things right.

“The majority of the players on the end of that result last year are still in our dressing room and I know they have been determined to make amends.” While Linfield are marginal favourites going in to tonight’s decider, they have struggled against Tiernan Lynch’s men since Larne returned to the top flight in 2019.

Coyle, who went on to win three league titles and four Irish Cups with Belfast rivals Glentoran, completed the feat with Linfield on three occasions - in 1978, 1980 and 1982. Another landmark moment is tantalisingly close for

Healy who celebrated double success with Linfield for the first time in 2017. Mind you, just don’t mention it to the 41-year-old, who greets premature conjecture with the kind of deadpan disdain that would wilt a cup final carnation at 20 paces. When asked about the prospect of adding another double to his managerial CV, Healy replied: “We’ll worry about the Irish Cup final first. “We have an opportunity to bring another trophy back to Windsor Park and that’s our only focus at the moment - we’re not looking beyond this final. “We have two games left in the league, at Coleraine and Cliftonville, and there’ll be pressure on those games, but we will deal with those when they come.

In their last seven meetings in all competitions, Linfield have won only twice with Larne coming out on top four times, including a 2-1 win in the NIFL Premiership at the home of the Blues last weekend. Healy said: “In previous rounds we had to scramble around for information on the likes of Loughgall and Annagh United, but that won’t be the case with Larne. “We know all about them. They are a good side, but we’re also a good side and we’ll go into it full of confidence on the back of a strong semi-final win over Ballymena.”

Words: Darren Fullerton, Daily Mirror




It’s a fair bet Jamie Mulgrew is well versed, if not immersed, in Linfield DNA. It’s safe to assume the Blues captain knows what makes the Belfast giants tick.

That’s what 16 years, 626 appearances, eight Irish League titles and a raft of other trophies gives you as the first leaves of autumn descend on an illustrious career. Mulgrew may have arrived in south Belfast from Glentoran in 2005 - the year Larne last played in

“We’re under no illusions how tough it is to win silverware in this league and things can change very quickly. A positive scenario can turn into a very negative one very quickly. “But we feel very privileged we’re in this position and it’s a positive that we’re fighting on two

an Irish Cup final - but he has the stature and aura of a one club man. The respect, too. Under three Linfield managers - David Jeffrey, Warren Feeney and David Healy - he has been there, done it and bought an outdoor market full of t-shirts. He has amassed enough football highlights and memories to last a lifetime

different fronts, in the league and Irish Cup, at the end of a very challenging season. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to get into this position and there’s a lot to play for. If you had offered us this scenario at the start of the season, we would have bitten your hand off. Many other clubs would love to be in this position.” Mulgrew, who hopes to wrap

and yet, like all the great Windsor captains before him, he craves more. It’s in his DNA. It’s what makes him tick. Ask the 34-year-old about the prospect of chasing a seventh domestic double of his career - yes, seventh - in the days ahead and he doesn’t duck the question. In Mulgrew’s world, expectation comes with the territory. It stands to reason that Linfield should be chasing major honours on multiple fronts at this stage of the season. Ahead of tonight’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup final with Larne, the experienced midfielder said: “Whenever you’re at Linfield you should always be challenging for trophies. “That’s what you’re expected to do and it’s what you’re supposed to do. At the start of every season we want to win every trophy that’s on the table.

up another NIFL Premiership title next week, knows 1000 fans will bring an added sense of occasion to tonight’s final, but he insists his only focus is on the job in hand. “People have asked me many times ‘what’s it like not playing in front of supporters’,” he said. “To be honest, you get used to it and at Linfield your only aim when you take to the pitch is to win football matches and trophies. “It’s fantastic there’ll be fans at the final, but it doesn’t change our mindset in terms of the job we have to do against a good Larne side. “It has all the ingredients to be a really competitive final and, from a neutral perspective, I’m sure it will be a really good spectacle.”

Words: Darren Fullerton, Daily Mirror





Andy Waterworth is hoping to conjure up another special moment in tonight’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup shootout with Larne at Mourneview Park. T H E S H A R P S H O O T E R

The Linfield striker, who has scored 37 Irish Cup goals across an illustrious Irish League career, has enjoyed many highs in Northern Ireland’s premier knockout competition. The 35-year-old bagged an eye-catching double as a Glentoran player in a 3-1 win over Cliftonville in the 2013 final to deny the Reds a domestic double. And then he made history with Linfield in 2017 when he became the first player since legendary Ards forward Billy McAvoy to score a hat-trick in the final. McAvoy bagged four in a 4-2 win over Distillery in the 1969 showpiece, 48 years before Waterworth’s memorable treble in a 3-0 win over Coleraine.

Cliftonville and we had a real sense of momentum as a team.” With Shayne Lavery in prolific form for Linfield this season, Waterworth has had to content himself with a reduced role and cameos off the bench in recent months. “It would be nice if I had another big moment in an Irish Cup final,” he said. “But I know I’m in more of a support role and hopefully I can maybe make an impact off the bench.” Linfield, who can seal a third successive league title next week, reached tonight’s final with a commanding 3-0 win over Ballymena United in Tuesday night’s semi-final. Lavery teed up Stephen

“Both those finals hold special memories,” said Waterworth, who is in the midst of his Linfield swansong ahead of leaving for pastures new this summer. “It’s funny looking back

Fallon for the opener before the livewire forward took his season’s tally to 29 goals with

a second half brace. “We probably caught

Ballymena on an off night, but we took full advantage and I thought we were very

because in the 2013 final I remember Jackie Fullerton, who was on commentary for BBC, chatting about the last ever hat-trick in an Irish Cup final. “He said something like ‘Waterworth could have scored a hat-trick there and there hasn’t been a hat-trick in an Irish Cup final since Billy McAvoy in 1969’. “That stuck in my mind, so when I was on two goals for Linfield in the 2017 final, I was determined to go on and get a third. I did and it was a perfect Saturday for me. “I felt good going into that game after scoring a hat-trick to seal the title a week before at

good,” said Waterworth. “Shayne got two and he could have got five. Stephen Fallon was also unplayable in midfield and it was great to see him get on the scoresheet.” On Larne, who put Linfield’s title champagne on ice with a 2-1 win in the league last weekend, Waterworth said: “We maybe have a point to prove after that result. “There has been very little between the two teams this season and it’ll probably come down to whoever turns up on the night or whoever gets that little bit of good fortune.”

Words: Darren Fullerton, Daily Mirror


L I N F I E L D ' S R O A D T O T H E 2 0 2 1 F I N A L

Linfield had to navigate one more round than today’s opponents Larne to reach this year’s final of the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup. While Larne received a bye in round one of the truncated competition, the Blues had to line out against Championship side Annagh United at Windsor Park in the opening round. They won the game comfortably. Linfield were also at home in the second round. They faced fellow NIFL Premiership side Dungannon Swifts, whom they swept aside. In the quarter-finals another Championship outfit, Loughgall, provided the opposition. It was tight at Lakeview Park for a while but ultimately David Healy’s team found their mojo - Shayne Lavery in particular - to record a victory. On Tuesday the Blues fired on all cylinders as they defeated Ballymena United, who were finalists last year. Linfield produced an energy-packed performance to book their place in this season’s Irish Cup decider. Strikers Andy Waterworth and Shayne Lavery were on target for Linfield as they eased past Annagh United at Windsor Park. Christy Manzinga had the first chance of the match for Linfield when he produced a rasping drive, however Annagh keeper Eoin Hughes kept it out. Annagh, who had not played a league or cup match for well over a year due to Covid restrictions, came close to taking a shock lead in the 33rd minute when Stephen Acheson produced a powerful header that was superbly saved by Blues keeper Chris Johns. Linfield opening the scoring in the 53rd minute when Kirk Millar broke down the right and cut the ball back to Waterworth who hammered the ball into the bottom corner. A 2-0 victory was secured with five minutes remaining. Midfielder Cameron Palmer delivered a low cross to the near post and Lavery was on hand to tuck it away. Linfield produced a strong performance to see off Dungannon Swifts in the last 16 of the competition. They controlled proceedings throughout the 90 minutes as they eased past the Swifts on a 5-2 scoreline. The Blues took the lead after just eight minutes. Cameron Palmer fed Navid Nasseri and he dribbled past Swifts keeper Roy Carroll. However, just as he was about to tap the ball home Swifts defender Cahal McGinty clipped the ball into his own net. A minute later the visitors were level when Shane McGinty crossed for Caolin Coyle and he scored with a neat header. Linfield carved out a couple of decent opportunities before they restored the lead on 34 minutes. Andy Waterworth latched onto a loose ball and squared it to Stephen Fallon who swept it into the net from close range. The home team turned the screw after the break and went 3-1 up in the 56th minute. Christy Manzinga’s low drive was deflected across the face of goal and Waterworth was on hand to tuck it away from two yards out. Waterworth scored Linfield’s fourth six minutes later when he converted a Palmer cross from close range. ROUND ONE Linfield 2-0 Annagh United ROUND TWO Linfield 5-2 Dungannon Swifts


L I N F I E L D ' S R O A D T O T H E 2 0 2 1 F I N A L

Palmer also got on the scoresheet in the closing stages. Joel Cooper burst down the right and picked the midfielder out just inside the area and he drilled the ball into the net. The scoring was not finished, however, as the Swifts grabbed a consolation goal in added time thanks to a Shane McGinty piledriver.

QUARTER-FINALS Loughgall 1-3 Linfield

Northern Ireland international striker Shayne Lavery was on fire for Linfield in the quarter-finals as he notched his fifth hat-trick for the club and his third of the season as they defeated Loughgall 3-1 at Lakeview Park. The Championship side, however, proved to be combative opponents and almost opened the scoring in the first minute. Linfield keeper Chris Johns was forced to touch a cross-cum-shot onto the bar. Lavery headed a Niall Quinn cross just wide of the target, a Navid Nasseri drive flew inches over the top and a Jordan Stewart curler was tipped around the post by Loughgall keeper Berraat Turker as Linfield piled on the pressure. Loughgall also had a couple of decent efforts on goal before the deadlock was broken on 40 minutes by Lavery. Stewart slipped in the striker and he drilled the ball into the corner of the net. Just after the restart the visitors went two up. Lavery pounced on a loose back pass and fired the ball low past the advancing keeper into the corner. Lavery hit the woodwork before Loughgall pulled a goal back. Chris Johns produced a great stop to deny a close range Nedas Maciulaitis strike but Jamie Rea was on hand to slot the rebound home. Linfield pushed forward again in the closing stages and scored their third on 89 minutes. Quinn headed the ball on to Lavery and he smashed the ball into the corner for Linfield’s 100th goal of the season. Shayne Lavery was once again to the fore as Linfield breezed past Ballymena United in the semi-finals. The livewire forward scored twice, and created the other, as the Blues defeated the Sky Blues 3-0 in their last four clash at Mourneview Park on Tuesday. Linfield started brightly and created a couple of opportunities before Stephen Fallon struck in the 19th minute. Lavery pounced on a Conor Keeley slip to fire in a low cross which Fallon scooped home at the near post. For the remainder of the half both teams competed well, although the Blues carved out the better chances. Joel Cooper fired over the top from an angle and a Fallon volley just missed the target. Cooper had a one v one with Ballymena keeper Ross Glendinning but shot straight at the stopper. Down the other end Keeley had a couple of shots blocked. Linfield always looked capable of adding to their lead and they did so just after the break when Lavery got on the scoresheet. Ballymena midfielder Josh Kelly misplaced a backpass which Lavery latched on to. He left veteran defender Jim Ervin trailing in his wake before slipping past Glendinning and bundling the ball into the net. Cooper came close to grabbing Linfield’s third when he got on the end of a Kirk Millar corner, however his close range effort hit the post. Ballymena almost pulled a goal back when Paul McElroy also hit the woodwork with a header but Linfield sealed the win in the 64th minute when Lavery lost his marker and nodded home. It was his 29th goal of the season. SEMI-FINALS Ballymena United 0-3 Linfield

Words: Nigel Tilson



Chris Johns Goalkeeper // Age 26

Alex Moore Goalkeeper // Age 22

Mark Stafford Defender // Age 33

Ross Larkin Defender // Age 21

A previous winner of the Irish Cup with Coleraine in 2018, Chris joined Linfield from the Bannsiders last summer and will want to replicate that feat in his first season at the club. Chris was on the losing side when Linfield last won the Irish Cup in 2017.

Linfield's deputy goalkeeper but reliable when called upon. Alex is a boyhood supporter from a Linfield family and the Lisburn native takes great pride in representing his club. Came through the youth academy at Linfield after joining at six years of age.

Massively popular with the Linfield supporters, the central defender wears his heart on his sleeve. The Fermanagh man will potentially play in front of the Linfield supporters for the last time and will hope to add to his Irish Cup winner’s medal from 2017. Big threat when attacking set-pieces.

A great prospect for the future, central defender Larkin joined Linfield from Portadown in 2019. More of a squad player at present, the Newry native will hope for a long and successful Linfield career and will want to add to last season's league winner’s medal with the Blues. Scored against Larne earlier in the season.

Michael Newberry Defender // Age 23

Mark Haughey Defender // Age 30

Jimmy Callacher Defender // Age 29

Matthew Clarke Defender // Age 27

Michael, who hails from Newcastle upon Tyne, came through the Newcastle United Academy from a young age up until captaining the U23s before moving to Vikingur Olafsvik in Iceland. The versatile defender spent three seasons with the Icelandic side before joining Linfield in January. Can play centre half or right back.

Joined the Blues in 2013 from Glenavon and has been a stalwart in the Linfield juggernaut, winning three titles and an Irish Cup in four seasons. Centre half by trade but also a solid right back and has made over 200 appearances for the club. Another threat from set-pieces.

Colossal for Linfield at the back, not just in ability but also in leadership. The vocal defender leads by example and puts everything on the line. A previous Irish Cup winner with both Linfield in 2017 and Glentoran in 2013. Powerful in the air with six goals this season. He is the club’s vice-captain.

The left back is another good servant having joined Linfield in 2013 following his release from Rangers. Wears his heart on his sleeve and is strong in the tackle. Irish Cup winner in 2017 and runner-up to Glenavon in 2016. Recently made his 250th Linfield appearance.

Ryan McGivern Defender // Age 31

Conor Pepper Defender // Age 27

Niall Quinn Defender // Age 27

Jamie Mulgrew Midfielder // Age 34

Despite boasting some big clubs like Manchester City, Leicester City and Crystal Palace on his CV, the former Northern Ireland international left back with 31 senior caps is hoping to win his first senior domestic cup. He did, however, win the FA Youth Cup at Man City and was a Scottish Cup runner-up with Hibernian.

Like Navid Nasseri, Conor joined Linfield the day after winning the Irish Cup with Glentoran last year. The right back is full of energy and pace. He made a big impact at Linfield initially before losing his place in the team but in recent weeks has won his place back.

Niall Quinn is known as Mr Reliable to the Linfield faithful. His performances are always very steady and consistent, and such is his great technical ability and energy he has played all positions across the back four plus central midfield and left midfield. He is a left back by trade. Came through the academy and made the breakthrough in 2012.

An Irish Cup winner a remarkable six times, Mulgrew is a serial winner who'll want to secure a seventh medal. The Linfield captain is massively influential and drives his team on, vocally and by taking the ball. Been at Linfield for 16 years and has made over 600 appearances. A Linfield great.


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