United ‘desperate’ to win Shield after cup exit - Thompson

Gary Thompson celebrates his goal in Saturday's Irish Cup tie at Linfield. Picture: Press Eye.
Gary Thompson celebrates his goal in Saturday's Irish Cup tie at Linfield. Picture: Press Eye.

Gary Thompson admitted that having three staples inserted in a head wound didn’t hurt as much as the result in Ballymena United’s Tennent’s Irish Cup defeat by Linfield.

The midfielder’s header had forced the tie to extra time before Guy Bates’ late goal broke United hearts - just three days before the sides clash again in the Toals County Antrim Shield final.

“We threw it away,” lamented Thompson.

“We had done the hard work but when they went down to 10 men, we didn’t pass it well enough.

“We certainly didn’t think it was all over when they went down to 10 men - I remember saying to Tony Kane ‘let’s keep doing what we’re doing’.

“We were right in the game and there was no need to panic.

“We got caught with a sucker punch because it was our free kick and they got too much time to put the ball in the box but at that stage everybody was a bit tired.”

On his second half goal, Thompson said: “It was great to score in front of our fans because we had a great crowd and playing towards them in the second half, we really gave it a good go.

“Looking back on it now, I think that was our opportunity in the second half - we were really coming on strong and the crowd were up but in extra time we didn’t really get going.

“No matter what way Tuesday night goes, Saturday’s defeat will hurt for a while.

“The Irish Cup is a massive competition, it can take your season right through to May as we know from a couple of years ago, so to go out is really, really disappointing.

“The only good thing is that it’s a really big game coming up so quickly and we proved on Saturday that we can match Linfield in one-off games.

“Obviously we haven’t done well enough in the league which is disappointing but we proved on Saturday that we have nothing to fear and hopefully we can go one better.

“I played in the Shield win three years ago and it was a great occasion - things stand out in your mind like Davy Munster scoring with a header and Alan Davidson scoring the winning penalty.

“It was a great night and we certainly enjoyed ourselves the next day!

“I know some people knock the County Antrim Shield but for us as players, you don’t get into many finals and every one of us will be desperate to win it,” added Thompson.