Linfield and Coleraine go head-to-head in the 36th NIFL League Cup Final, at Windsor Park (3pm ko, all-ticket). There will be full live coverage of the game on Sky Sports Football (2.30pm). 

Linfield’s route to the final had the potential for an upset along the way, with ties against Championship sides Moyola Park (a5-1), Dundela (a1-0) and Annagh United (h3-0). The Blues sealed their place in the final with a comfortable win (3-0) over derby rivals Glentoran at the Oval. Coleraine’s passage to their third consecutive League Cup Final, saw wins over Dergview (h4-0), Ballymena United (a1-0), Dungannon Swifts (h3-0), and at Cliftonville (a2-2,5-4pens).

Both Linfield and Coleraine have won the League Cup trophy a total of ten and two times respectively. The Blues last lifted the trophy in 2019 (1-0 v Ballymena Utd), courtesy of a goal from Andy Waterworth. The Bannsiders contested the following two finals, beating Crusaders (2-1) in 2021, but then losing to Cliftonville (3-4aet), before a competition record attendance figure of 11,103. That record now looks set to be broken in Sunday's eagerly anticipated final tie.

Both teams were in mid-week League action, with Linfield taking a hard-earned point (0-0) in a highly charged clash with Larne at Inver Park. Highlight of the night for Linfield was an inspired save by Chris Johns deep into added time. Just how important a save could this prove to be in a title race that could still have a few twists and turns left to run? At the final whistle, David and his players will have been relieved to hold on to the point, but also bitterly disappointed not to have forced the win needed to start eroding into the seven-point gap that separates the two teams at the top of the table.  

Coleraine enjoyed a more comfortable night in their home derby win (3-1) over Ballymena United. Manager Oran Kearney will certainly be looking for a similar performance from his team against Linfield on Sunday. Coleraine are a physically strong, and dangerous side, with NIFL top scorer Matthew Shevlin always likely to pose a threat in and around the penalty box. Having dropped off the pace in the title race, the Bannsiders will be determined to grab what is effectively their last chance of lifting some silverware this season. 

David for his part, would gladly take the same result (2-0) as when the teams met at Windsor Park in February. The Blues certainly have the players up front to provide the firepower and flair needed to light up the game, with top scorer Eetu Vertainen, Chris McKee, Kirk Millar and Joel Cooper all expected to be in David’s match day panel. The Linfield manager will be hoping that the recent snow showers over Belfast, will not have taken too heavy a toll on the Windsor Park pitch. A heavy difficult surface will dictate the tempo of the game by slowing the play down to make it more of a physical battle for both teams.  

With plenty of media coverage in the build to the game, the stage has been well and truly set for this marquee cup final. The profile of the game will be significantly elevated by the live coverage on Sky Sports Football. Opportunity now knocks for the NIFL and the two teams to showcase the Irish League in the best possible light to a world wide audience. There will be a great atmosphere in the packed Windsor Park stands, which will be bouncing as the teams cross over the line! Let the action commence! COYB!

Ken Garrett.

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