Irish League legend David Rainey received an early Christmas present when he discovered that he was eligible to play in Thurday’s Toals Bookmakers Steel & Sons Cup Cup final.
Rainey’s current club Harland & Wolff Welders believed the striker was ineligible for the competition as he was part of the Glenavon squad that won the Irish Cup in May. As a result, Rainey hasn’t kicked a ball in any of the Welders previous six games.
It turns out Rainey was in fact eligible all-along, as he was an unused sub in Glenavon’s 2-1 win over Ballymena United.
The 38 year-old striker took up the story.
“The news came as quite a shock. I always thought that if you won an Irish Cup medal then you couldn’t play in the Steel & Sons the following season. As far as I was concerned I wasn’t able to play and I knew that when I signed for the Welders.
“But apparently in the rule it’s only if you come onto the field of play, and as I was an unused substitute I never actually did that.
“It’s a weird one because I’ve not kicked a ball in the entire competition, but I’m delighted because I can know play in the final.”
Rainey is honest enough to admit that he feels a little guilty about taking someone’s place in the cup final, despite having not played in any of the previous rounds.
“My first words to the manager were, ‘Don’t feel you have to play me. They’ve earned the right to be there and I haven’t.’
“But now I thought about it I want to play in the cup final. I’ll understand if the manager leaves me on the bench because the other guys I’ve played in every round, but it would be great to play some part in the final.
“It would have be nice to have played in the earlier rounds. I feel my season has been up and down because I’ve been in and out of the team. Sometimes I was going a fortnight without a match because I was sitting out the Steel & Sons, which isn’t ideal.
“But there’s no point in dwelling on it. It’s just nice to know I can play in the final.”
This isn’t Rainey’s first experience of the Steel & Sons Cup final. In 2005 he played for Crusaders in their 4-1 victory over Dundela. Rainey scored the second goal of that final, with Stephen Shaw scoring twice and Darren Stirling adding the fourth.
Rainey believes this final will be even more special than the one he played in nine years ago.
“The Steel & Sons is massive, everybody always talks about how special the final is. People come down to watch this game regardless of who is in the final. I won it with Crusaders in 2005 during their year in the Championship, but that was on Christmas Eve so it wasn’t quite as special.
“The Christmas morning final makes it that little bit more special. I can’t wait for it.”
The Welders will face Carrick Rangers (10.45am) in tomorrow’s final at Seaview.