Ben Hall embracing challenge of taking on more responsibility in heart of defence at treble-chasing Linfield

Ben Hall celebrates scoring against Glentoran on Boxing Day. PIC: David Maginnis/Pacemaker PressBen Hall celebrates scoring against Glentoran on Boxing Day. PIC: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Ben Hall celebrates scoring against Glentoran on Boxing Day. PIC: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
​Ben Hall has enjoyed shouldering more responsibility in the heart of Linfield’s defence this season and is embracing the pressure of fighting for further silverware, starting with an Irish Cup semi-final against bitter rivals Glentoran.

​The former Motherwell star scored as David Healy’s men secured the first part of a potential treble by beating Portadown in the BetMcLean Cup final and also netted in their Boxing Day league victory over the Glens, which helped to avenge the lowest moment of the Blues’ campaign when they lost 4-0 at The Oval 25 days prior.

They’ll return to East Belfast on Friday night with Hall keen to achieve his first taste of an Irish Cup showpiece decider and the 27-year-old is ready to embrace the occasion against Declan Devine’s side.

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"They don't come much bigger than a Big Two derby in the Irish Cup semi-final,” he said. “Everyone knows what's at stake and after what happened to us last time we went over there we need to go and put things right.

"It (4-0 defeat) hasn't been spoken about really. There has been a lot of football played since then and we had the Boxing Day game.

"You can use it as motivation but you just need to focus on the game in hand. A lot has happened since then.

"It's probably in the back of your mind but you're not really thinking about it going into the game.

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"Any defeat we've had this season we've been good at bouncing back and going on long unbeaten runs - that's all you can ask for.

"There are going to be times when you get beaten or have bad performances, but what's most important is that reaction and we've been quite good at that this season."

With Jimmy Callacher’s summer departure to Crusaders, Hall has had to step up as a leading figure in Linfield’s backline with 23-year-old partner Euan East playing in his first Irish League campaign, Daniel Finlayson is still only 23 himself and 21-year-old Ethan McGee joined less than three months ago.

"It's something that is new to me this season because when I was playing with Jimmy he was the leader in defence and the one demanding of people and organising everything so I didn't really need to think about that side of the game,” he added. “Now he's not there, somebody had to pick up that void and the coaching staff were on to me to try and improve that side of my game and I've been doing my best.

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"I enjoy that challenge and it keeps me more focused as well when you're trying to organise everything around you. It's something I haven't had to use up until this year but it has added another part to my game."

Healy’s side are just seven matches away from completing a first Linfield treble since David Jeffrey’s all-conquering team of 2007/08, which included some of the club’s greats, such as Glenn Ferguson, Peter Thompson and a young Jamie Mulgrew, who is still churning out superb performances.

Hall isn’t interested in getting carried away with potentials, instead focusing on the task at hand as they look to make this campaign another memorable one.

"It's been going well for us this season - we're around where we want to be in the league,” he said. “We've probably made it a bit more difficult than we would have liked, but it's back in our hands at the minute and we're in the semi-finals of the Irish Cup.

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"It's got the makings of being a successful season if we can put a good run together.

"You don't want to look too far in front or think like that (about a treble). You need to focus on the next game and take it one at a time because there's still so much to play for and there will be twists and turns between now and the end of the season.

"It would be nice to win that but there's still a long way to go to achieve it."