Football is all about improvements, and doing better than you had previously. Last season, Linfield were Runners-Up in three competitions.
This season, they’ve already won one of those competitions, the County Antrim Shield, and kicked-off at Mourneview Park still in contention to win the other two trophies that eluded them last season. That was still the case when they left the pitch today.
For the record, we’ve just accepted that we’re never going to win the League Cup ever again and will be out of the competition by October each season.
Linfield got a lot of joy attacking down the left hand side in the first-half, with one cross agonisingly missing everyone in the box, while another resulted in an Andrew Waterworth cros that was deflected behind for a corner. It looked like being only a matter of time until Linfield scored.
Dungannon were able to ride out that storm and came more into the game, their bets opportunity coming when Dougie Wilson headed over for a corner.
Neither side had a shot on goal of note in a goalless first-half.
This wasn’t a new situation for Linfield, having faield to scored a first-half goal in any of the previous rounds in this season’s Irish Cup.
Linfield started the second-half better and had a glorious opportunity to take the lead when a penalty was awarded for a foul on Jamie Mulgrew.
Having scored four penalties out of four in recent weeks, Stephen Lowry was due a miss, and so it proved when Andy Coleman saved his shot, and Lowry and Andrew Waterworth managed to miss the rebound between them.
Dungannon fans would have had some justification in believing this was the sort of thing that happens when it is your day.
Paul Smyth and Niall Quinn were next to be frustrated as Coleman saved left foot shots from both of them, while Aaron Burns had a goal disallowed for a foul.
It was the sort of game that could only finish 1-0. The longer it stayed 0-0, the more you got that feeling.
David Healy turned to his bench by bringing on Kirk Millar for Niall Quinn.
You also got the feeling that Dungannon were going to get a moment. That came when Peter McMahon burst through and had a deflected shot look set to go in, only for Roy Carroll to pull off a dramatic save.
As extra-time loomed, a cross found Stephen Lowry, who found just enough space to place the ball home from inside the six yard box. Linfield had the lead in a game that looked destined to finish 1-0.
Dungannon never looked like equalising. In fact, Linfield almost got a second on the break when a Paul Smyth shot went just wide, as they saw out the game to set up a Final against Coleraine on May 6th. Hopefully, a repeat of 1982 and 2008 rather than a repeat of 1975 and 1977.
Elsehwere in football this week, Edinburgh City have announced that they will be playing at Ainslie Park, home of Spartans for the next three seasons while Meadowbank Stadium is redeveloped.
I’m curious to see what Meadowbank Stadium will look like. At the moment, it always seemed like a grim place to watch football, which is why never gave Edinburgh City any consideration when I visit Edinburgh every August.
Edinburgh in August can wait, it’s all about next week and Crusaders at home.
The games can’t come soon enough.