Having recently been crowned Premiership champions the Blues will not lack for confidence as they attempt to secure a sixth double in seven years.
This is the second season in a row that they will meet Crusaders in the final and manager David Jeffrey is expecting last year’s defeat to galvanise their opponents today but says his team are ready for the challenge. Speaking to the News Letter he commented:
“I think back to my own time as a player. I only played in two Irish Cup finals and lost both. I remember at the end of them regretting that we hadn’t won and being desperate for the opportunity to put it right the next year.
“It didn’t happen for me. Taking that experience for me, the vast majority of the Crusaders players who were in the final last year will be desperate to make amends and put things right.
Crusaders are rapidly gaining a reputation as cup specialists with the league cup already in the bag this season as well as a Setanta Cup final date against Derry City to come.
Stephen Baxter’s men have endured a mediocre league campaign where they finished a disappointing fifth but the manager has rested his first team players in the league in recent weeks in order to preserve them for their cup campaigns.
Winning three cups in a season would be a wonderful achievement for the north Belfast side but Baxter is under no illusions about the scale of the task facing them today.
He told the News Letter:
“It would be fair to call us underdogs. Linfield are going for their sixth double in seven seasons and you don’t have that level of consistency over such a long period of time not to be favourites. But that doesn’t in any way shadow or cloud our thinking.
“We will just get on with a game of football and prepare in the right way. We know what the game is all about and what the build up is like. This will be our third final in four years.
“It doesn’t really concern us — the favourites tag means nothing really. We are just prepared and getting ready to play a big football match and David (Jeffrey) will think exactly the same I’m sure.”
Linfield striker Peter Thompson will be aiming to continue his remarkable record in the competition, having scored 39 goals and failed to taste defeat in his 34 Irish Cup appearances.
Crusaders are targeting a fourth Irish Cup success while for Linfield it would be a 42nd triumph.
The Irish Cup was inaugurated in 1881, it is the fourth oldest national cup competition in the world.
Linfield 8/13; Draw 11/4; Crusaders 4/1.
Linfield 2 Crusaders 1