A look at how Linfield built season to remember on team-mates, trust and tactics

Darren Murphy highlights team unity off the pitch as key to on-the-field Setanta Cup success for Linfield in 2005.

By Patrick Van Dort
Thursday, 9th April 2020, 12:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 12:33 pm
Linfield celebrate Setanta Cup success in 2005. Pic by INPHO.
Linfield celebrate Setanta Cup success in 2005. Pic by INPHO.

The 2-0 victory on that May night at Tolka Park over a lauded full-time Shelbourne side on home turf that included highly-regarded names such as Wes Hoolahan, Richie Baker and Jason Byrne secured Linfield a place in history.

David Jeffrey’s Blues stand as the inaugural winners of the cross-border tournament thanks to a triumph against the odds which paved the way for sustained silverware by Linfield.

“It was more than a squad, it was a group of team-mates and friends - we socialised together and spent so much time on and off the pitch together,” said Murphy. “That was also a credit to David for picking players he knew would gel so well.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“David always took the pressure off the players and on the day of the final we trained in Dublin then later, during the teamtalk, we didn’t really focus too much on Shelbourne, it was more just about our own strengths.

“We played in a traditional 4-4-2 formation and didn’t change our approach really no matter the opposition.

“Instead we put our trust in the work we would put in across training and in our team-mates and the plan.

“That squad wanted to go on the frontfoot all the time but could then adapt by having the full-backs and wingers attack or keep the wide midfielders tucked in more, depending on the game.

“We had great options up top then so much flexibility in defence or midfield as a platform.

“We may only have trained three times a week rather than full-time but everyone pushed each other on, the group worked so hard, given the quality overall.

“That squad had so many big-game performers, the ‘go-to’ players who would step up when most needed.”

Collective strength to cement the individual quality proved a silverware-winning alchemy.

“You could go right across the squad, just look at Alan Mannus’ career as a goalkeeper,” said Murphy. “Noel Bailie and ‘Winkie’ Murphy were outstanding as a centre-back partnership.

“Noel goes down as one of the greatest centre-backs in Irish League history, even if his warm-up would involve kicking a ball off the wall in the dressing room rather than going out on the pitch!

“He was the quietest captain I ever played under but everyone held him in such high esteem, he showed leadership in his performances and was beyond reliable.

“Up top, ‘Spike’ Ferguson was the best striker I ever played with - another leader, very vocal who just carried that air of authority.

“Plus, he was so hard working as a centre-forward and I think that example really rubbed off on Peter Thompson as a younger striker.

“In Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompson you had two strikers who just delivered.

“Michael Gault was so hungry, he never stopped running and formed a brilliant pairing in the centre of midfield with Paul McAreavey.

“Paul would always say to us that, if ever in trouble on the pitch, then just give him the ball...he never seemed to give it away.

“Steven Douglas and Tim Mouncey were superb along the right, then I played out on the left with Aidan O’Kane.

“You look at the substitutes’ bench for that final and it had such depth, not least David Larmour as a striker who offered so much.

“Mark Picking and Stuart King just slagged each other all the time and were two of the biggest jokers but played full throttle.

“Pat McShane was such a quality player - along with Ryan McCann, Greg Shannon and Andy Hunter all within that group.

“You backed up your team-mate and didn’t want to let anyone else down, that was a big part of our success and strength - no-one wanted to even miss training.

“We knew exactly what was required in a game in any situation.”


A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.

But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.

You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk

With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Thank you