Irish Cup hero Paul Hardy has warned Ballymena United of complacency ahead of Saturday’s massive semi-final clash with Queen’s University.
The Sky Blues are hot favourites to book their place in next month’s showpiece decider by seeing off the challenge of the Championship 2 minnows at the Oval.
The Braid club are looking to reach a first Irish Cup final in 25 years.
It was back in 1989 that striker Hardy scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Larne to lift the blue riband trophy.
Glenn Ferguson’s side are one step away from another final appearance, but Hardy has warned the current squad to be on their guard at the Oval.
“The players must not start to think they are already in the final – that is far too premature,” Hardy said.
“Anything can happen in cup football and you mustn’t fall into the trap of disrespecting any team you play.
“Queen’s have nothing to lose, but I’m sure Glenn Ferguson and his back room staff will have his players properly prepared.
“Glenn is a very professional guy. He will have them ready.”
Hardy became a Ballymena legend when he scored that winner 25 years ago – also at the Oval.
It has gone down in the club’s folklore, and the 53-year-old admits he never tires of talking about that glorious afternoon a quarter of a century ago.
“I don’t mind it when people want to talk about that goal and that win,” he said.
“It was a long, long time ago, but it’s something I’m immensely proud of. It’s a very special memory.
“I was 29 in 1989. It’s hard to believe it is so long ago, but maybe this is the year to put that right. I’d love to see United lift the Irish Cup again.”
Ironically, it was Hardy who pitted Ballymena against Queen’s when he took part in the semi-final draw last month.
It prompted loud cheers from the Sky Blues faithful who are now dreaming of Irish Cup glory once again.
“It was strange drawing the Queen’s ball out,” Hardy said.
“Realistically, Ballymena won’t have a better chance of reaching the final and I hope I’ve played some small part in the club winning the cup again, but Glenn will know there’s a lot of football still to be played.”