IRISH CUP FINAL: Cliftonville skipper Chris Curran out to end club’s long wait

Skipper Chris Curran admits it would be his proudest moment if he was to hoist the Tennent’s Irish Cup on Saturday – but insists the team will remain grounded ahead of Cliftonville’s biggest date of the season!

It’s been 39 long years since the Reds last had their hands on the trophy. The Class of 1979 are still worshipped at Solitude.

Cliftonville captain Chris Curran is ready to face the Coleraine challenge at Windsor Park

Cliftonville captain Chris Curran is ready to face the Coleraine challenge at Windsor Park

Barry Gray’s boys are now within touching distance of shattering that horrible statistic once and for all. Come 5pm on Saturday, the Class of 2018 could well be cracking open the champagne.

“It would be a dream come true if we were to win it and I was lucky enough to be handed the cup, but it’s not my style to start thinking like that,” said Curran

“I’m captain, standing in for Ryan Catney, but I don’t think that gives you the divine right to think you are assured of a startling place either. If you started thinking like that, you’d be counting your chickens before they had hatched.

“I’ve been working really hard and hopefully Saturday will go to plan. I’ll worry about getting my place and then we’ll take it from there – we’ll take it one step at a time.”

Curran is aware that his boys will be going in against a wounded animal, knowing Coleraine will be determined to get the disappointment of losing out on the Irish League title out of their system.

In fact, out of four previous meetings this season, the Reds are still looking for their first win over the Bannsiders, who have won twice and drawn twice.

“It’s a cup final . . . it’s a one-off match,” said the former Ballinamallard United man. “We can’t afford to let past league results come into our thinking.

“I think they only time they beat us convincingly was up at their place in August. I don’t know whether we gave them too much respect or not, but they were comfortable that day.

“We have loads of respect for them (Coleraine) for what they have done this season and we won’t be taking them lightly in any shape or form.”

“At the same time, there is not a lot between the sides. We won’t be fearful. On our day, we can beat any team. As long as we turn up and perform and worry about ourselves. I think it will be tight, close game.”

Curran had to sit out last week’s win over Linfield, but was mightily impressed by the performance of a team that was oozing with youth.

He added: “I was suspended. I was glad of the rest so hopefully it will give me that extra bit of energy going into the cup final.

“The team were superb last week, from one to 11. I think there were a few raised eye brows when Barry (Gray) named the side but they were fantastic.

“They had loads of energy . . . got the ball down and played some really nice neat football. Barry asked the boys to go out and give him a headache in terms of cup final selection – and I’m sure they did that.

“You certainly couldn’t argue of some of them feature in the squad because they were so composed and so strong all over the pitch.

“Barry has been telling the squad, before every training session and before every game that there is still and opportunity for people to put themselves in the frame.

“Last week was no different. The lads capitalised on it and performed well. They have given themselves every chance of being involved.”

Curran admits there is a lot riding on the outcome. Not only will the winners enjoy the prestige of lifting the Irish Cup, but will gain automatic entry to European football.

“We now have a massive opportunity to not only win the cup, which is huge for Cliftonville, but also qualify for Europe,” he adds. “Everything is now on the line. And the motivation you get from that is immense. Everyone is looking forward to this game now.

“The financial benefits are huge. Every player is aware of what it means to the club.

“As players, our objective is to win the trophy – that’s our job. But everyone knows how beneficial it can be. There are a lot of spinoffs because winning cups and qualifying for Europe can help attract other players to the club to strengthen the squad.

“It means we have to win a game of football and then everything else falls into place.”