Harland & Wolff Welders manager Gary Smyth confessed he was ‘mentally drained’ after his side lifted the Toals Bookmakers Steel & Sons Cup on Christmas morning.
The Welders drew 1-1 with Amateur League outfit Albert Foundry before winning a penalty shoot-out 4-1, in front of a bumper crowd at Seaview.
The former Glentoran defender said; “I just feel mentally drained by the whole experience. I feel tired, at the moment. I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
The Welders took the lead in the 33rd minute thanks to a fine finish from Michael McLellan, who tucked home his 26th goal of the season from an acute angle. Albert Foundry equalised in the 73rd minute when Darren McComb produce a wonderful chip. The Foundry enjoyed the better of the final stages of the festival final, but shoot-out misses from Paul Young and Bill Maxwell handed the Welders the cup, with Chris Middleton scoring the decisive spot kick.
Gary Smyth said; “I was disappointed with our performance. We looked scared after they got their equaliser.
“At 1-0 we had three or four chances to score a second but we just couldn’t find the net. Their goalkeeper Stephen Cairnduff made a wonder save from David Rainey at the start of the second half, that would have finished the game.
“But we could get the second goal, then they broke and scored an equaliser. After that, we were hanging on. I’ll put my hands up and admit it. We were lucky to make it to extra-time, the boys looked terrified.
“Albert Foundry can consider themselves quite unlucky not to win it. Their sub missed a sitter with five minutes and they had five corners in stoppage time. It could have been very different.”
Last year, the Welders lost 4-1 to Carrick Rangers in the final. Smyth believes the fear of losing the final two years in a row may have affected his players.
“I think they were scared of defeat, again. We brought on Chris Middleton and Neil Dougan to add a bit of pace to our game and get at them, but extra-time passed them by.
“I don’t know what happened, we just capitulated.
“Thankfully we hung on in there and held on nerve in the shoot-out. The four takers all did well. It’s great to win the Steel & Sons, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Albert Foundry manager Colin McIlwaine said; “I’m gutted but I’m incredibly proud. I can’t praise my players enough. With a bit more luck we would have won the match.”