David Munster is becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of being Ballymena United’s unexpected man for the big occasion.
The veteran defender has developed a happy knack of scoring goals in crucial matches.
It was Munster’s header which helped United to the penalty shootout success in the 2012 County Antrim Shield final which ended the club’s 23-year wait for a trophy.
Since then Munster has also chipped in with a goal in last season’s Irish Cup run in the quarter-final against Dungannon, while, more recently, it was his late winner in the semi-final win over Ballinamallard which booked United’s place in Saturday’s League Cup decider against Cliftonville.
“I don’t get that many goals so I’m happy with any I get, but it’s nice to get goals that have been really important, in semi-finals and finals - I suppose it’s not a bad habit to have!
“I was really pleased to score the winner in the semi-final because I had been at fault for Ballinamallard’s second goal.”
Manager Glenn Ferguson handed Munster a new contract last summer but admitted that his appearances would be limited.
“I keep reminding Glenn every Tuesday and Thursday about that because I’ve already made about 20 appearances this season!
“But I can understand the situation because we’ve been badly hit by injuries, especially in defence.
“He has tried to give me a rest whenever he can, like New Year’s Day when I couldn’t play on Thursday and then again on Saturday.
I’ve told Glenn that if I’m training well and feeling fit, if he picks me, I’m happy to play and if I’m playing well, I want to stay in the team.
“I’ve always tried to keep myself fit and I’ll know myself when it’s time to go - even if I don’t, I’m sure someone will be quick to tell me!
“I think Glenn understands the situation better than a lot of people because he played until he was 40 and he knows when to play me and when to leave me out. He’s also very good with giving me a night off training sometimes to keep me fresh for matches.
“We’ve had some bad experiences against Cliftonville in recent seasons but a cup final is a one-off occasion.
“The boys are looking forward to it. We’ve been talking about it a bit in recent weeks although it has been a really busy period with league and Irish Cup matches to focus on.
“Reaching this final came at a good time for us because our season was tailing off a wee bit.
“It has really given us a lift at the start of the new year.”
Munster believes that Ferguson is gradually building a squad capable of competing for silverware on a regular basis, after a barren number of years
“Football can be funny. Ballymena went a long time without reaching a final and then we get to three in just over two years under Glenn.
“A lot of people talk about getting into the top six in the league and while that would be good for the club, you don’t get anything for it.
“People remember cup finals and the supporters enjoy the days out but winning would make it extra special,” added Munster.