LEAGUE CUP FINAL: Punctured in pre-season but Ballymena’s forwards enjoying striking success

Ballymena United's Johnny McMurray and strike partner Cathair Friel. 'Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye
Ballymena United's Johnny McMurray and strike partner Cathair Friel. 'Picture by Brian Little/Press Eye

Johnny McMurray is loving life at the Ballymena Showgrounds and the centre-forward is hoping and praying that he can run riot with strike partner Cathair Friel in Saturday’s League Cup Final against Carrick Rangers at Seaview.

McMurray (11) and Friel (19) have scored 30 goals between them this season and Carrick will be wary of the firepower the two bring to the table.

And McMurray says the two of them have developed a good understanding since joining United last summer.

“The partnership with Cathair has been great but I don’t think anyone thought it would work so quickly.

“In pre-season it was tough and the less said about our 12-minute runs the better.

“‘Bushy’ and I get on really well but to look at the two of us, you’d have thought we’d rolled out of a Sunday League pub and we were rocking up to pre-season games - especially Bushy!

“He was a wee bit more off than I was,” laughed McMurray.

“I don’t think either of us expected it to work so well, so quickly but he really took off quickly and I actually think it was me who got him his goals!

“People probably looked at Bushy and because of the level he came from they weren’t expecting much but he’s on a different level.

“I don’t think people have seen the best of him yet and he hasn’t reached anywhere near his full potential,” he said.

McMurray says it is great to be involved in a final after missing out on the big day when he was at Cliftonville.

“I wasn’t involved in any of the cup finals when I was at Cliftonville.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing for David. It’s hard to pinpoint why more than any other club, though.

“Cliftonville was a great club and I learned a lot from the players who were there but I knew I was never going to get into the team.

“They were at the top and playing with Joe (Gormley) and Boycie was brilliant for me.

“I then went on loan to Warrenpoint and that was great for me and I really don’t think we deserved to be relegated.

“But since coming to Ballymena it has been streets ahead in terms of professionalism and everything is there that we need.

McMurray says everyone at the Sky Blues is looking forward to Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to the final at a packed Seaview. It’s not Wembley but it will be great.

“It’s going to be different for us because I’d say seven out of the 11 have never played in cup finals.

“There will be loads of our fans and a lot of noise. We can’t wait for it,” added McMurray.