David Jeffrey has defended the right of both Ballymena United and Carrick Rangers to share the national spotlight in the League Cup final.
Both clubs will step out on to the Seaview stage aiming to lift an inaugural League Cup prize in front of what should prove a sold-out support and live Sky Sports television audience.
Critics have questioned the mass appeal of two of the domestic game’s least decorated clubs but Jeffrey is relishing the showpiece showdown.
“Both clubs are in the final on merit, having come through some really tough tests in previous rounds to get to this point,” he said. “It is a massive day for both clubs and both sets of supporters look like making it a sold-out final.
“I am expecting a fabulous atmosphere inside Seaview as it is a tight ground.
“It has been fantastic this week and I do not agree with people in certain quarters who have turned noses up at the prospect of a final between these two clubs.”
Tony Kane - the club’s second-highest scorer thanks to a double-figure tally of goals from penalties and free-kicks - remains a doubt due to hamstring trouble.
“We have had him wrapped up in cotton wool and been doing everything we can in terms of treatment but hamstring injuries are always difficult,” said Jeffrey. “He came through Thursday’s light training without a reaction but it always comes down to a 48-hour period so we will take another look before the match.
“Neil Lowry was straightforward in telling us he was ruled out and Johnny Flynn got sent off for the under 20s during the week.
“Other players are cup-tied or, like Gavin Taggart and Stephen McBride, still out with injury.
“You would never do it for the league but in a one-off game like a cup final it can come down to calculated risks.
“The baseline is always about can it do damage to the player or can it do damage to the team.
“Thankfully, I have a group of players here who can be trusted to help the process by being honest rather than risk going out and hurting the team’s chances.”