Peter McCann knows a thing or two about the Irish Cup final – but he believes Oxford Sunnyside’s romance with the tournament could well hit Windsor Park next weekend.
This is the ultimate David vs Goliath clash, Little Mid-Ulster League lets Oxford go head to head with David Healy’s Irish League champions – priceless!
It’s the kind of stability pro and general the country was deprived of last year. Due to the coronavirus situation, the sport’s top knockout tournament has become a spectacle after several championships and intermediate clubs withdrew, with no competitive football played for six months.
But it’s back with a bang this season and McCann, 40, has sampled the good and bad of competition, being a member of the Portadown team that lost in the finals and eventually getting their hands on the trophy. .
And, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, he admits that his chances of returning to Showcase Decider in May are slim.
“It’s a huge job, especially with the way Linfield is playing,” he says.
“I think we’ll adapt the system Ossie Ardiles played at Spurs – go with the four up. For some reason, I don’t think it will work.
“That’s what the Cup is about. It’s a dream, it’s the biggest game in club history. It’s no biggie for Sunnyside, who plays Linfield at Windsor Park.
“People will be talking about the sport for years to come, and the players involved will talk about the day we went to Windsor with their children and grandchildren.
“We will try and do well for ourselves. Having said that, our performance levels compared to Linfield are two different things. We want to give a good account of ourselves with very little chance of winning.
“I would tell the boys to play without fear – don’t be afraid to pick people up, just do what you do, week in, week out. It’s a no-fear tie for us, we have something to lose No. I would tell them to enjoy our day and enjoy their football – it’s as simple as that. It’s a good tie and a great thing for the club.
“I’ve been there and I’ve done it. I was lucky enough to win trophies in the Irish League with Portadown and I played regularly at Windsor Park throughout my career.
“But for these boys, it’s a dream. They’re a bunch of honest boys and they deserve this day. It’s a big deal for the club.”
“I was looking around the changing room, thinking these boys would never get a chance to play at Windsor Park in their careers. We are basically a young side. We have some boys aged 16 and 17, We have some in their mid-20s… and then I’m in 40, which pushes the age average up dramatically.
“Big Warner Mullen plays at the forefront for us. He was at the Institute and Ballinamallard United. My former Portadown teammate Sean McLay just signed for us and Davey Magee was at Glenavan at one time, so we have some boys who have played at a higher level.
McCann admitted that he cherishes his Irish Cup winners’ medals.
“I was on the Portadown team that lost to Linfield, we were trying to double that season, 2001-02,” he recalls. “We scored early, only to win a couple for Chris Morgan who won him the cup.
“But I was lucky in 2005 when we beat Larne 5-1 in the final. It was a great experience and it was wonderful to win the trophy. It was a wonderful time in my career and it’s great to have on my CV.”
“I know what’s ahead of us at Windsor Park. I won’t make any bones about it, it’s probably an impossible task. I just want the players to do their utmost and enjoy the opportunity.”
The level at which we play, they are good players and I want us to represent ourselves in the best possible way.