County Antrim Shield success the goal for Ballymena United’s Andy McGrory over Cliftonville

Ballymena United's Andy McGrory. Pic by INPHO.
Ballymena United's Andy McGrory. Pic by INPHO.

Andy McGrory is hoping a change of challenge can result in a change of form when Ballymena United face Cliftonville tonight in the Toals County Antrim Shield final.

Four consecutive league defeats heading into the Windsor Park showpiece showdown have left last season’s Danske Bank Premiership runners-up short of confidence and searching for answers.

McGrory feels victory over high-flying Cliftonville could offer a short-term boost in terms of silverware but also a long-term lift to take back into the final stretch of a below-par league campaign.

“We have to go into the final with the view it is a clean slate, anything can happen in a one-off game so we start again aware success would give everyone around the club a major lift,” said McGrory. “We owe it to the fans, now is the time to stick together.

“Bringing a trophy back to Ballymena could prove a turning point in the season and we will be giving it everything.”

Paddy McLaughlin will walk out in a first final as Cliftonville manager relishing the chance to reward his players’ sparkling season with a trophy.

“We are looking forward to it, it is nice to be going to a final with the club,” said McLaughlin, who has steered his side to three points off top spot having joined last February. “It is full reward for the hard work of the players and a chance to thank the fans for the support, they have been super in my time at Cliftonville.

“Ballymena’s a good side, they’ve struggled with injuries over the early part of the season but now they are getting the squad back together.

“It is going to be a tough game but Windsor Park is a good pitch so, hopefully, we can play at a high level.

“Winning any kind of silverware can give the players a taste for it, which could help drive the group on for more, especially a young squad.

“Hopefully a win would spur them all on for future success - it is great for the club to be back in cup finals, it is where Cliftonville belongs.”