Continuing our build up to Saturday’s As Live re run broadcast of the 2017 Irish Cup Final Linfieldfc.com provides the newspaper previews of the big occasion by the leading local sports journalist Alex Mills.
The articles feature on Andy Waterworth whose hat trick had just won the Irish League and whose hat trick was just about to win the Irish Cup to complete a truly memorable Waterworth Week when Linfield completed an unforgettable League and Cup double.
2017 IRISH CUP PREVIEW
By Alex Mills
Linfield’s Andy Waterworth believes his team are mentally in a ‘better place’ ahead of Saturday’s Tennent’s Irish Cup final against Coleraine at Windsor Park.
With the Premiership title already proudly sitting in the Blues’ Boardroom, along with the County Antrim Shield, the big 27-goal striker is desperate to get his hands on the Irish Cup once again.
He has mixed emotions from previous finals. He was an instrumental member of the Glentoran team that lifted the trophy back in 2013.
Handy Andy hit a glorious double for the East Belfast team with another Linfield favouite, Jimmy Callacher, also on the score sheet in the 3-1 win.
“Jimmy still gives me a big of stick because I took man of the match award away from him back in our 2013 cup win,” quipped Waterworth. “But that give me a taste of what it was like to win an Irish Cup final.
“It was a fantastic occasion. I used to watch the final on television when I was a kid. So, for to appear in the final, it was a dream come true.
“It’s not only about what happens on the day, it’s the razzmatazz, the hype and all the media interest leading up to the game itself. It’s a feeling I desperately want to experience in a blue shirt.
“I think we are mentally in a better shape than before. The team has really gelled since the beginning of the year. I just hope we turn up on the day.”
However, the champagne turned flat for Waterworth and his team mates 12 months ago when they were beaten by Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon -- a defeat that still hovers over the Blues like a dark cloud.
“It was a horrible feeling,” admitted Waterworth. “What made it even more frustrating was the fact we started so well. But games are not won on 15 or 20 minutes.
“I actually think Glenavon scored against the run of play, but the rest is all history as they say. Goals win football matches and they scored them.
“We had no excuses at the finish . . . it was a big chance missed. It’s one we all still regret. I think it was reminiscent of us being caught like a rabbit in a car headlights.
“The pressure was on to win a major trophy -- something most of the boys hadn’t experienced before. It’s now something we are determined to rectify.
“Football owes us nothing. No team as any God-given right to win a final, so we’ll have to work for anything we get. This team is prepared to roll up their sleeves and dig in when needed.”
Although the Blues recently racked up a thumping (5-1) win over the Bannsiders, Waterworth stresses it will be no advantage to his team.
“The league game is gone,” he added. “If anything, it will be more of a motivation to them -- they’ll be hurting. We know what to expect from Coleraine.
“They are a big, strong side. They’ve already booked their European ticket for next season by finishing third in the league, so that tells us all we need to know.”
ANDY WAS ALSO NAMED THE PLAYER OF THE MONTH BY THE NI FOOTBALL WRITERS
By Alex Mills
Striker Andy Waterworth admits he reached the crossroads of his career last season, but is now a better player for it!
The 31 year old’s negative vibes all disappeared last weekend when he got his hands on the Premiership trophy. Waterworth realised then he is a man for the big occasion after bagging a hat-trick in an unforgettable day at Solitude.
Not surprisingly his antics against Cliftonville -- and in his previous four games -- this morning earns him the Belleek NI Football Writers’ Player of the Month award for April.
Even though Waterworth was a title winner with his former club Glentoran, he would have deemed himself a failure if he hadn't landed the Gibson Cup at Windsor Park.
“I joined Linfield in May, 2013 to win trophies . . . I wanted to maintain the club’s rich tradition in that department,” said Waterworth. “When it didn’t happen, I began doubting myself.
“Suddenly, I started to believe what people were saying; maybe I wasn’t a big game player; maybe I couldn’t do it at the top for Linfield. I started to feel that way.
“Then, I lost the club captaincy and my confidence dropped. I felt a bit insecure. I wasn’t in a happy place at that time, but I persevered and persevered, and worked harder in training.”
Waterworth believes manager David Healy instilled a mental toughness into the entire side that helped transform the Blues into league winners.
“The gaffer took me aside and said ‘I know I’m critical of you sometimes, but that’s because I want more from you’,” added Waterworth. “My confidence came flooding back.
“As a lad I always followed the Irish League, I know the history, what it means. When I won the Gibson Cup with the Glens, I wasn’t a bit part player but I didn’t play as many games as I am now.
"I associate Linfield with the Gibson Cup -- and I wanted to be part of that. I've now achieved that, but it could be only the start of something special