IRISH CUP: ‘I don’t want to be a penalty hero,’ says Glenavon keeper

Goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey is hoping Saturday's final doesn't go all the way to penalties. � Photo: Gary Gardiner.  IN BL WK 1816-506.
Goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey is hoping Saturday's final doesn't go all the way to penalties. � Photo: Gary Gardiner. IN BL WK 1816-506.

Glenavon’s goalkeeper says a world of homework might not even be enough to pass Saturday’s exam.

Banbridge man Jonny Tuffey will be his side’s last line of defence against a free-scoring Linfield in the Irish Cup final.

And that could well provide a tasty Bann battle against Aaron Burns.

It’s certainly a heavyweight bout, Burns is in scoring form but Tuffey was named Glenavon’s Player of the Season last weekend.

The former Seapatrick youth player knows this season has provided few harder tests than facing Burns in this weekend’s game. “I don’t think it would matter what research you do on Aaron,” he said. “Getting 27 goals without playing in every game is phenomenal. Aaron’s scoring record over the last few seasons from midfield and wide left is sensational. It amazes me at times how he is still playing in this country.”

Surely leading up to an occasion such as this, a goalkeeper will be watching videos of previous Linfield penalties at least. Tuffey reckons the significance of such revision, though, is perhaps over-emphasised.

“It’s a bit of a lottery,” he said. “Players can change their mind and go different directions.

“We played Linfield earlier in the season, Aaron got a penalty and sent me down the shop for a can of coke. Those things happen and if it comes to penalties on Saturday, that’s the way it goes. You pick a side and hope for the best.”

Jonny should know all about the Belfast Blues anyway, having been one of them just one year ago. Could that prove a deciding factor in the big game?

“To be honest, I don’t think so,” he mused. “It’s a big day and a big occasion. Yes I still have friends there but when you cross that white line, it’s 11 versus 11 and you play what’s in front of you trying to get the right result.”

It will be Tuffey’s first taste of an Irish Cup final but he, of course, has plenty of other experience to draw upon. Eight Northern Ireland caps and a top flight stint in Scotland, it’s been a tasty career so far. Where would Irish Cup success rank?

“It would be absolutely sensational and it would be right up there with the highlights of my career,” he said, although Tuffey was keen to stress he and his side are under no pressure to succeed.

“It’s been a long season and it’s great to be playing in an Irish Cup final at the end of it. It’s going to be a very special occasion and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to.

“But our main aim was to finish in a European place. We’ve done that thanks to a third place finish in the league and now we can go there fully relaxed, enjoy the occasion and hopefully we can give a really good performance. If we perform the way we can, hopefully we can cause an upset.”

Tuffey picked up the Alan Steele award for the Glenavon Player of the Season after the Premiership campaign ended on Saturday, but he won’t be content if he doesn’t get his hands on more silverware this weekend.

He said: “Personal accolades are nice but the main thing is the team and we’ve all done well. We’ve got a terrific set of boys and a great blend of experience and youth. Gary’s done a great job of getting that mix and Glenavon are reaping the rewards of that now.”

So is a goalkeeper’s Cup final dream the chance of penalty heroics?

“No,” Tuffey smiles. “Win 1-0, clean sheet, up the road. Thank-you!”

Whatever way it comes, as long as Glenavon end up on top on Saturday afternoon, Jonny will have no complaints.