Ballymena United Irish Cup-winning manager Alex McKee believes Glenn Ferguson and his players “stand on the brink of something special”.
McKee was at the Sky Blues helm the last time the Showgrounds club lifted the Irish Cup in 1989.
Paul Hardy’s back-heeled goal claimed a 1-0 win over Larne at the Oval, a victory that Ferguson’s Class of 2014 will be looking to emulate on Saturday when they take on Glenavon in the showpiece decider.
McKee remembers the scenes of jubilation when his Ballymena side lifted the prestigious trophy 25 years ago, and believes there would be similar pomp and fanfare if the club can repeat the feat in four days’ time.
“The Irish Cup holds a special place in Ballymena hearts and Glenn and his players should know they are on the brink of doing something very special this Saturday,” McKee said. “The cup has a great magical effect on Ballymena people and it means so much.
“Everyone I meet is talking about Saturday’s final and there is a real buzz in the town. I know there will be a big support there and that should act as a massive motivation to the team.”
McKee – who attended a 1989 reunion dinner at the Showgrounds at the weekend – recalls the open bus tour around Ballymena following the club’s cup success, and the emotion it stirred among the town’s citizens.
“A vivid memory I have of that day is a wee man standing at Patrick Place in the town,” he added.
“He was wearing an overcoat, a duncher hat and holding a walking stick. As we drove past, he waved his hat in the air and was so overcome with emotion he lost his balance and fell to his knees.
“In a strange way, that one moment really summed up to me what it meant to Ballymena people to see the Irish Cup being paraded through their home town.”
Reflecting on that triumph of 25 years ago, McKee added: “We had a team of workers who gave their all.
“We had an incredible spirit. I just had to open the changing room door and let them out.
“To beat Linfield in the semi-final replay was special because they were a very good side.
“I don’t remember much about the final itself. It wasn’t a great game, but we got the job done.”