Portadown striker Mark McAllister hoping to earn fourth winners’ medal

Mark McAllister has won three out of four Irish Cup finals he has appeared in
Mark McAllister has won three out of four Irish Cup finals he has appeared in

Mark McAllister knows a thing or two about Irish Cup finals!

When the 27-year-old walks out against Glentoran at The Oval on Saturday, it will be the fifth time he has graced the showpiece occasion.

Needless to say, he has savoured the good with the bad.

However, when he peers into his trophy cabinet, three glittering winners’ medals take pride of place.

And the former Linfield man insists “he’s not finished yet”.

“It’s the day everyone wants to be involved in,” beams McAllister.

“Some players never get the chance, but thankfully I’ve been there and worn the t-shirt.”

McAllister’s Irish Cup romance began back in 2007, but that one didn’t quite go to plan.

“I was playing for Dungannon Swifts,” he recalls.

“The game against Linfield went to penalty kicks after it finished 2-2. Unfortunately I was one of a few players that missed from the spot. It was also 2-2 in the shoot-out, and I was last to go..

“That was my only disappointment from my four finals. I was lucky enough to win the cup three times in my days at Windsor Park – and a scored in a few finals as well.

“So I’ve tasted both the highs and lows.”

McAllister believes the time is right to add to his medal collection.

“It will be a really tough game,” he adds.

“Glentoran have come from under the radar this season. They were not even tipped to reach the top six in the league, but they have proved a lot of people wrong.

“Eddie Patterson had done a fantastic job with the squad. I know the club has had their financial problems, they have been well documented. But Eddie and his coaching staff have managed to bring in a new breed of young players who are now beginning to find their feet in the league.

“But we must focus on what we have to do to win the game.

“We may not have the biggest squad in the league, but it is certainly one littered with quality. We’ll not be short of confidence on the day.”

McAllister, who was tracked by Celtic before his move to Linfield, believes the IFA’s controversial decision to host the glamour game at The Oval will not be a hindrance.

Windsor Park, of course, is out of bounds due to structural damage at the Kop Stand.

“To be honest, to me personally, it’s not an issue,” he adds.

“Finals are usually held at Windsor and, in more cases than enough, Linfield are involved and there is never any problems with that.

“The Oval is probably the next biggest stadium in terms of housing an eight or nine thousand crowd, so it makes sense to hold it there.”

McAllister is just thrilled to be involved. He missed a large chunk of his team’s league games in recent weeks due to a hamstring problem.

“I’m now good to go,” he said.

“It was just a niggle that wouldn’t go away. The boss (Ronnie McFall), left me out for a week or two to give it a chance to heel – and the physio has been working hard on me.

“I’ve also been doing some extra work in the gym. Everyone is now geared for the final.”