Dungannon boss McAree hopes to draw on experience of 2007 Irish Cup final

Bet McLean League Cup Final
Venue: Windsor Park, Belfast Date: Saturday, 17 February Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website, plus live text commentary.

Dungannon Swifts manager Rodney McAree hopes to draw on his experience of playing in the 2007 Irish Cup final as his side prepare to face Ballymena United in Saturday’s League Cup final.

McAree scored in the club’s last appearance in a cup decider, in which they lost to Linfield on penalties.

“Terry Fitzpatrick, Terry McCrory and myself are still at the club from then and we have that big game experience.

“We will try and put that across to help the players in any way we can.”

“A big part of it for me is having so many homegrown players in my squad and others who have bought into the whole ethos of the club. Hopefully that spirit of togetherness will serve us well on Saturday,” said the Swifts boss.

How Dungannon reached the final
Second round (away) beat Newry City 4-0
Third round (away) beat Warrenpoint Town 1-0
Quarter-finals (home) beat Ballyclare Comrades 2-1
Semi-finals (home) beat Crusaders 2-1

Dungannon beat Crusaders 2-1 after extra-time at the semi-final stage last month to reach the Windsor Park decider, ending the league leaders’ 23-match unbeaten run in all competitions in the process.

“Nobody really gave us a chance against Crusaders – nobody tipped us to be in the cup final – so to win that one was hugely memorable.

“It would be a huge achievement for the club to win a senior trophy and indicate that we are going in the right direction, giving us another platform to build on for the future.

“The club has proved over 15 years that they are capable of competing at the top level and a victory on Saturday would be reward for all the hard work that has been put in by everyone

“It’s going to take a monumental effort against a very, very good Ballymena side however,” said McAree.

After a barren spell of 23 years without a trophy, Ballymena have earned something of a reputation as cup specialists in recent seasons, reaching an Irish Cup final, three County Antrim Shield showpieces and now three League Cup deciders in four years.

How Ballymena reached the final
Second round (home) beat Knockbreda 3-1
Third round (home) beat Portadown 2-0
Quarter-finals (home) beat Ards 3-2
Semi-finals (home) beat Cliftonville 3-1

The Sky Blues are aiming to retain the cup they won 12 months ago by defeating Carrick Rangers at Seaview and also hope to make up for the disappointment of losing to Crusaders last month in the Shield final.

David Jeffrey’s side defeated Cliftonville 3-1 in last weekend’s much-delayed semi-final to make the final at the National Stadium.

“We want to learn from the problems we gave ourselves that night against Crusaders – we’re in another final now and we want to use that disappointment as motivation to not be in that position again,” said United captain Jim Ervin.

“At the start of the season we set ourselves objectives in the dressing room and one of those was to retain the League Cup. To win it once with the club was nice but to retain it would be even better.

“Our targets involve reaching cup finals on a regular basis and this is our second this season – it’s going to be a great occasion and a great day out for the supporters so hopefully we can go on and lift this one.”