Mallards keeper John Connolly happy not to be centre of attention

Ballinamallard United keeper John Connolly saves the vital penalty on Saturday
Ballinamallard United keeper John Connolly saves the vital penalty on Saturday

Mallards goalkeeper John Connolly who was the hero in the quarter-final shoot-out with two penalty saves did it again at Mourneview Park on Saturday.

The 42-year-old came up trumps once more on Saturday by keeping out Matty Lynch’s effort.

And the keeper says he can’t believe he is in the final.

“It’s amazing to be in the final after the year I have had. My father passed away recently so dad that was for you.”

While he’s happy to do his bit, he would prefer if he didn’t have to be the centre of attention.

“I would rather we scored a winner in the last minute to be honest!

“When it goes to penalties it’s a bit of a lottery, but we were confident coming into the game.

“It wasn’t a case of hoping we could win – we believed we could win.

“I don’t know if I’m talking out of turn here, but I thought we were the better team,” said the Dubliner who certainly wasn’t expecting to be back in a cup final in the twilight of his career.

“You definitely don’t. I spent the majority of last season out injured with a ruptured achilles and it was a tough battle to get back from that.

“We had a win on the opening day and then we went nine defeats on the trot. So, to make the top six in the league and then get to an Irish Cup Final is brilliant.”

While he stopped Lynch’s effort, Connolly felt he could have saved more.

“The two Warrenpoint players that we studied had been taken off.

“There were a couple of others that I got my hand to as well that I could have stopped, but I’ll take the one,” said the keeper who feels his side have little to lose when they face Crusaders on the final at the beginning of next month.

“We’ve been underdogs going right through the cup, even from the Carrick game, Dungannon in the last round and then today.

“The final is going to be another step up but we’re there aren’t we, so let’s just see what happens.”

Experienced striker Ryan Campbell scored the decisive fifth penalty to seal the 5-4 win.

He said: “This is unreal. I can’t believe that at my age I am going to an Irish Cup final.

“You just see what it means to everyone from Ballinamallard.

“The noise they made today was brilliant and we are just over the moon.”

And midfielder Richard Clarke who had success with Glentoran and Crusaders says is is an amazing feeling being in the Irish Cup Final.

“It’s amazing and it is the stuff of dreams. We are a hard working club with limited resouces so this is great for the club.

“It went to penalties and we kept cool heads and it is amazing that Ryan kept his cool and scored the winning penalty.

“We have worked hard, kept to our priciples and we are going to Windsor Park,” he added.