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Sport Irish Cup emotion reminds David Jeffrey why he returned to management

22:26  31 july  2020
22:26  31 july  2020 Source:   belfastlive.co.uk

David Jeffrey "encouraged" by high level of Ballymena United's performance in Irish Cup final

  David Jeffrey “It's some consolation that when we have our full group of players fit and available, we will be a match for any side."The Sky Blues may have lost 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion after extra-time, but the vibrant display from Jeffrey’s men drew praise from those present, including Glentoran boss Mick McDermott.

David Jeffrey says the drama and emotion of Ballymena United ’s unlikely run to the Irish Cup final has reminded him why he opted to return to management in 2016.

Pre-lockdown when the Sky Blues were pawing for form and struggling near the foot of the league table, Jeffrey was stalked by doubt and dismal results.

Fast forward six months and one of local football’s most decorated bosses is preparing to prowl the touchline of a blue riband showpiece for a ninth time.

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No wonder a wry smile whispered across his face in the moments after Ballymena’s penalty shootout win over Coleraine in Monday’s semi-final at Windsor Park.

“Our league season was horrible and there were a number of times when I asked myself ‘why did I come back to put myself through this again?’” said Jeffrey.

“Compared to my first three years at Ballymena, it was a challenge, so after we won the shootout I was just so thankful and proud of the players.

“It was a dramatic tie and quite remarkable when you consider we equalised in the 94th minute and went on to win on penalties.

“When you think of all the emotion around that, it was very special and in a moment like that you do think ‘this is the reason I’m back in management’.

“I was proud to have played a part in bringing real happiness and joy to Ballymena.”

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Jeffrey, who took over at United in 2016 after taking a two year hiatus following his Linfield exit in 2014, lifted the trophy seven times during his Windsor reign.

And the 57-year-old doesn’t need reminding it is 31 years since the Sky Blues last lifted the trophy when a Paul Hardy goal beat Larne 1-0 in the 1989 final at The Oval.

“Ballymena’s wait is almost as long as Cliftonville who last won it in 1979,” he said.

“It was interesting to hear Tim McCann say on TV earlier in the week that almost became a bit of a burden at Solitude.

“I know it is 31 years since Ballymena last lifted the cup, but as far as I’m concerned it’s not about looking back. I see this as a new opportunity.”

While United’s Irish Cup odyssey stands as a counterpoint to their pre-lockdown malaise, Jeffrey isn’t billing tonight’s final as a quest for “redemption”.

Ballymena, league runners-up last year, were languishing 10th and had won just three of 14 previous games in all competitions prior to football’s suspension in March.

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“Everyone seems to want to talk about ‘redemption’, but not me,” he said “Yes, it was a horrible league season, but the league is finished and this is a new opportunity.

“It’s not an Irish Cup final as we know it, but it’s still an Irish Cup final and the people of Ballymena can be assured we’ll go to Windsor to give of our very best.”

On the threat posed by Glentoran, Jeffrey said: “They will be big favourites - no question.

“I watched their semi-final with Cliftonville and they were most impressive.”


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