Linfield Swifts manager Alan Dornan believes reaching the Toals Bookmakers Steel & Sons Cup final could be the making of his young team.
In recent years, Linfield worked tirelessly to form a formidable academy that attracts young talent from all over Northern Ireland.
Many of the Linfield Swifts side that will play Dundela at Seaview of Christmas Eve (10.45am) kick-off have already been with the Blues for years.
Dornan explained, “This is huge for our young players, but also huge for our club.
“It’s been almost 20 years since Linfield last played in the Steel & Sons Cup final, so it means a lot to everyone at the club, to make the final.
“David Healy told the players that he wants to see them win this trophy. The desire to win trophies doesn’t stop at the first team at Linfield, in runs the whole way through the club.
“We are winning trophies at every level, as well as producing talented young footballers who we believe are the future of Linfield Football Club.
“This Linfield Swifts team isn’t like old Irish League reserve sides. There’s no 23/24 year-old here. It’s a team full of kids around the age of 18. For most of them this will be the semi-final was their first experience of playing in front of a crowd. The final will be another learning curve for them.
“They showed their quality and character in the semi-finals, when they came back from 2-0 to win.”
East Belfast club Dundela have lifted the famous trophy on 10 previous occasions, while Linfield’s reserve side have won the historic intermediate tournament eight times.
Indeed, this will be the fourth time the two teams have clashed in the Yuletide final. Most recently, in 1997, Linfield Swifts won 1-0 in extra-time thanks to a golden goal from Andy McClean.
David Murphy’s Dundela booked their place in the final with a 2-0 win over Glebe Rangers thanks to a late brace from Matthew Burrows. Former Glentoran man Burrows was part of the Duns squad that lifted the trophy in 2007.
Linfield Swifts were 2-0 down to Crumlin Star in their semi-final, only to win 3-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Johnny Frazer.