Glenavon midfielder Shane McCabe determined to avoid more Irish Cup heartbreak

Shane McCabe and Glenn Ferguson do battle durign the 2007 final
Shane McCabe and Glenn Ferguson do battle durign the 2007 final

Glenavon midfielder Shane McCabe knows the agony associated with losing an Irish Cup final.

McCabe was part of Dungannon Swifts’ heroic side that reached the 2007 showpiece under Harry Fay.

It was a mesmerising cup run for the Stangmore Park underdogs, but their dream was dashed by Linfield in a cruel penalty shootout.

After fighting out a 2-2 draw over 120 gruelling minutes, Linfield went on to claim a 3-2 penalty triumph to clinch a second successive double.

McCabe remembers the coach trip home from that final, and the overbearing sense of regret as they returned empty-handed.

“I just remember thinking ‘that cup should be with us,” he said.

“We scored our first two penalties that day, and Linfield missed their first two, and I thought we were going to win it.

“But then the whole shootout changed, and we missed out next three while Linfield scored theirs.

“We were devastated, and it is something I don’t want to repeat this year.

“People use the cliche of nobody remembering the Irish Cup runners-up, but I will certainly never forget us losing that day.”

McCabe admits he will draw on that experience ahead of Saturday’s final with Ballymena United.

He also hopes Glenavon’s senior players can reassure Gary Hamilton’s younger brigade as they head into the biggest game of their fledgling careers.

“This will be something completely new to the young lads – playing in front of around 7-8,000 fans,” McCabe said.

“We will help them as much as we can in the build-up to the game, but you never know how players will react until they are out there.

“It is a massive occasion and one we all want to enjoy, but there will be pressure involved. It’s how to channel that pressure.”

McCabe is no stranger to competing in front of partisan atmospheres, having sampled crowds in excess of 40,000 during his gaelic football career with Fermanagh.

“I played in front of 40-50,000 fans in an Ulster Championship final against Armagh – that’s probably the biggest,” he said.

“Gaelic crowds are different to soccer crowds. There could be 40,000 supporters at a gaelic match, but they can go very quiet during the game.

“At a soccer match the fans generally shout and sing throughout the whole match. I remember the Boxing Day derby last year with Portadown, and while there may have only been a couple of thousand, the noise was deafening at times.

“So I can only imagine what it will be like on Saturday when we step out against Ballymena. These are two big provincial towns converging on Windsor Park.

“It has been 17 years since Glenavon won the cup, and 25 since Ballymena lifted it. So there is a real sense of occasion. It would be massive for either club to lift the Irish Cup, and hopefully it is Glenavon.

“I don’t want to experience another day like 2007. It is something you never forget, sop hopefully this time I can have happier memories to keep hold of.”