The excitement around Lurgan is building to a peak as the 2:30pm kick off in tomorrow’s Tennent’s Irish Cup Final is now less than 24 hours away. The town and the Mourneview Estate in particular is a sea of blue and white flags and a record crowd of over 5,000 Glenavon fans prepares to head to the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park for the show-piece final on Saturday hoping for a repeat of the 2014 success which saw Gary Hamilton’s team lift the coveted trophy for the first time since 1997.
With only a small number of the 12,000 tickets remaining, it could be a sell-out and certainly will be the largest Cup Final crowd in a decade. The first Irish Cup Final in the newly refurbished Windsor Park promises to be a great occasion for all the fans, young and not so young.
In 2014 the team was led out by Mark Farren who sadly passed away in February this year and Gary Hamilton has asked his widow Terri-Louise to lead the team out tomorrow.
In what will be a poignant occasion for Terri, she is delighted to follow in the footsteps of her late husband whose Glenavon shirt she will wear on the day. Read more in the Lurgan Mail: http://www.lurganmail.co.uk/sport/football/glenavon-fc/leading-lady-1-7366398#ixzz47t0PfDUb
Gary Hamilton has had his Cup Final squad more or less settled in his mind for a couple of weeks and barring Kyle Neil, James Singleton and Ian Morris (ineligible) it should be at full-strength from the players available to him.
Gary has been boosted by Kevin Braniff, four-goal hero of the semi-final win over Crusaders, agreeing to a new 12 month contract. “I’m delighted that Kevin has signed on for another season. His goals and all-round play had been a big part in our success this season and he’s still one of the best players in the league, ” Gary said as we looked ahead to the Final.
“I’ve a squad of 19 fit players available to me tomorrow so over the next few hours the staff and myself will have to whittle that down to the final 16. That’s the most hateful part of the job but it has to be done. It’s a pity we can’t have everyone involved but I’m sure all the lads will play their part in some way on the day whether they’re in the 16 or not.
“It’s great that we’ll have such a massive support tomorrow and they really can be that 12th man for us. At the semi-final they kept us going even though we went behind three times and in the end they drove us on to win that one so if they make the same sort of noise tomorrow it will be fantastic. They also played a major part in our success in 2014 and last season they spurred us on in the last 7, 8 or 9 games and helped us qualify for Europe.
“It’ll be a tough game and it can come down to a refereeing decision or whichever team handles the occasion best. We have plenty of players with experience of playing in big finals and if we start well it can quieten the Linfield crowd and they can sometimes get on their own players backs if they don’t get on top from the start.”
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Referee: Raymond Hetherington