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Football: WE CAN POOL IT OFF; Portadown v Larne, tomorrow, Windsor Park Dickson: Our cup form has been Champion.

Byline: Orla BANNON

HE'S no Anfield Red but Mark Dickson thinks Larne can 'do a Liverpool' and pull off a massive Cup shock in the Nationwide showpiece final against Portadown tomorrow.

Poor league form overshadowed by stunning Cup results has been the story of the season for the Reds of Liverpool and Larne and while the Champions League party is a few weeks away, Larne's day of destiny is approaching fast.

Logically lowly Larne stand no chance of winning tomorrow's Irish Cup final.

Dickson freely admits even the players didn't believe it was possible at first, but they have gradually succumbed to manager Jimmy McGeough's infectious optimism and now are convinced it will happen.

"No-one expects us to win but we will be very disappointed if we don't," declared the hot-shot striker whose 21 goals have been a major factor in Larne's success.

"We have one hand on the trophy now and there's no reason why we can't finish the job."

It was only when nine-man Larne dumped Dungannon Swifts out of the Cup in the sixth round that Dickson and his team-mates really started to believe their manager.

"Jimmy had been saying from the start that we'd win the Irish Cup but we used to just laugh at him at first," admits Dickson.

"It was only after we beat Dungannon with nine men when Mark Parker scored the winner in injury-time that we really started to believe maybe he was right.

"Now we're only 90 minutes away from what would be a fantastic achievement for everyone connected with the club."

Newcastle United fan Dickson has his own ideas about why Larne are a transformed team on Cup days.

"I think maybe it's because we know in the Cup we don't have a second chance - it's now or never," he explained.

"If we were playing Portadown in the league we'd be thinking, 'don't get hammered, just keep it close for the sake of pride and then hope to get three points the next week against a team like Omagh'.

"But when it comes to the Cup we don't think like that.

"We only have one crack at it and we just go for it every time, a bit like Liverpool are doing in the Champions League."

The 23-year-old has had the season of his life and paid tribute to Jimmy McGeough for the way he's brought the club to life.

"Jimmy's a great character, he has a lot of stories to tell but he's also very experienced and when he came in we hoped he'd make improvements.

"I had been playing on the right of midfield but he said he'd play me up front and I've been really pleased the way it's gone.

"My 21 goals are my best ever tally even if the last few have been from the penalty spot.

"The main aim was to avoid relegation which we were widely tipped for and although our results were up and down, to be fair we had a lot of injuries and suspensions and the manager couldn't field the same team two weeks in a row.

"The injuries and suspensions always seemed to clear up in time for the Cup games though!

"I remember we got a draw at Windsor Park before Christmas and confidence just surged from that.

"Then the Cup run started in January and it's rolled on from there." Dickson, already linked to a move to one of the bigger clubs, is sure to enjoy more big days like tomorrow but would love to make it a special day for the 'veterans' like Stevie Small and Paul Curran.

"Stevie has said he is going to retire while Paul is around that age too.

"At the other end of the scale you have the likes of Robbie Weir who's only 17 - he wouldn't have believed he'd be playing in an Irish Cup final at this stage of his career.

"For quite a few of us it's going to be our first Irish Cup final and it would mean everything to us to win it."

CAPTION(S):

WE'RE GOING TO WIN-DSOR CUP: Mark Dickson aims to help Larne achieve victory tomorrow; BELIEF: Larne boss Jimmy McGeough has inspired his team
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 6, 2005
Words:702
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