Football/Soccer

Firm resolve can see Dungannon Swifts through once again

Dungannon’s Seanan Clucas launched into the tackle against Linfield’s Jordan Stewart
Padraig Kelly

BetMcLean League Cup final: Ballymena United v Dungannon Swifts (today, Windsor Park, 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football)

DAYS like this don't come around too often for Dungannon Swifts.

In fact, their League Cup final against Ballymena United this evening will be only the second time that they have had a shot at a major trophy.

The first came 11 years ago when they lost to Linfield on penalties in the Irish Cup final, and although they have had success in the Ulster and Mid-Ulster Cup in the past, a win at Windsor Park would be the greatest achievement in the Tyrone club's history.

They face a formidable challenge in David Jeffrey's Ballymena side though who are out to defend their title after winning it for the first time last season.

Honours have been even between the teams to date this season, the home side winning each league match 2-1, but it's United who have been performing better across the entire campaign.

They may only be one position above Rodney McAree's side in the league, but there is a six-point gap while Ballymena also have two games in hand.

Dungannon come into the match in good form though and are unbeaten in their last four games in all competitions, winning three of those.

When you consider that Crusaders, Linfield and Glenavon have provided three quarters of the opposition in that run, then it's a pretty good confidence booster heading into the game.

The sides have had very similar paths to the final. They both won their first two games on a 5-0 aggregate before coming through their quarter-finals by a one-goal margin. Both teams also upset the odds in the semi-final, the Swifts beating Crusaders 2-1 and Ballymena dumping out Cliftonville on a 3-1 scoreline.

United needed extra-time to overcome Ards in the quarter-final but it's their opponents who have provided most of the late drama en-route to the decider.

They needed a late Paul McElroy effort to see off Warrenpoint while they went behind in the 87th minute to Ballyclare in the quarter-final before Johnny Lafferty and Ryan Mayse struck in injury-time.

They trailed Crusaders in the semi-final until Peter McMahon popped up to equalise five minutes from time before Ryan Harpur grabbed the winner five minutes from the end of extra-time.

They have shown a superb resolve throughout the competition, and if they can do that once more, then this could be the greatest day in the club's history.

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