IT’S been something of a rollercoaster season for Jamie Harney but the accomplished defender is hoping to sign off in style by helping Cliftonville to Tennents Irish Cup glory on Saturday.
Since returning from England and enduring nearly a year out of the game with a niggling injury, Harney has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the Danske Bank Premiership.
That’s one of the reasons why the Reds have reached Saturday’s showpiece decider at the National Stadium where Barry Gray’s team will lock horns with a Coleraine side that just missed out on winning the league title.
It’s been a staggering 39 years since Cliftonville lifted Irish football’s premier silverware and Harney and his team-mates are determined to end that cup famine.
“We are constantly reminded that they haven’t won the cup in 39 years, that’s way too long for a club the size of Cliftonville. They have had a few bad cup days, so the pressure is on us to put it right.
“It should be a great occasion in front of a packed house. Both teams have a big following and the place will be rocking.
“Coleraine have had a fantastic season. They just missed out of the league and last season were beaten finalists in the Irish Cup, so they won’t be lacking motivation.
“But neither will we. It’s been an inconsistent season for us but on our day we have proved we can beat anyone, and quite comfortably as well.
“On a personal level it’ll be great to have family and friends there because a lot of the time when I was in England that wasn’t possible.”
For Harney, who started his career across the channel at West Ham, winning the cup would be the perfect end to a season during which he has made tremendous progress.
By his own admission, the defender says it has taken him time to adjust to life in the top flight of the local game but insists he has enjoyed every minute of it.
“It took me some time to get bedded in, get climatised to playing in the Irish League,” he added.
“I believe the league doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The clubs have a really professional approach, it’s so competitive and for younger players it’s a great stepping stone.
“The cup final will bring together a lot of good young players and two teams which on their day can beat the best. It may well boil down to how the players deal with the whole day, the atmosphere and we don’t want to get sucked into doing anything that we wouldn’t normally do.
“We need to stick to the game plan and carry it out the best we can.”
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