Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew has reflected on the motivation and moments behind the club’s return to the pinnacle of Irish League football.
A 3-0 defeat of Coleraine on Saturday left Linfield celebrating Irish Cup glory one week on from Mulgrew and team-mates standing in front of home supporters at the same venue holding aloft the Gibson Cup as league champions.
Consistency and confidence steered Linfield to a dream double and handed Mulgrew the main medals in the domestic game for the first time since 2012.
It extended an unbeaten run across all competitions to 20 games that left Linfield holders of a trophy treble.
“I was maybe spoilt with success in my early years at this club but then hadn’t won anything, which wasn’t acceptable and not performing to the standards of this club, which is why we didn’t win,” said Mulgrew. “We’ve a manager who drives us on and expects a lot, as do the fans, so we have to match those expectations and from January on we have reached those standards.
“I can remember the time after the draw with Portadown (in February) when we probably thought it was gone but we deserved to win the league with that form since.
“None of us were nervous or anxious going into the final, just ready and I suppose that’s the confidence we have in each other to be so ready for the game.
“This season maybe my performances have shown I wanted to fight desperately to be back part of a team that would be successful, we all fear it not happening again.
“I’m 30 now so you do start thinking about how to prolong your career and you want to cherish every moment but must work incredibly hard as at Linfield you’ve got to always look over your shoulder.
“The manager and his staff work incredibly hard so they set the bar and standards and if we don’t meet those expectations then you won’t be in the team or here.
“We now have the three trophies we failed in last year so managed to learn from those experiences.”
High-profile honours secured across the past week provided a memorable finale for Mulgrew but the skipper was quick to highlight the value of the County Antrim Shield final victory over Crusaders in February.
“It kick-started us and our results against Crusaders won us the league I think this season after a long time of not beating them,” said Mulgrew of the back-to-back league champions. “They bullied us and were better two years in a row.
“Over a long period they had the better of us but once we got that monkey off our back and winning the Shield, it give us the belief that we can do this and the confidence increased.
“We have had a ruthless edge and resilience, with hunger and desire in abundance, everything expected at this football club.
“We reached another level within that unbeaten run, especially once it hit the split.”