Matthew Smyth admits that it is still hard to believe that he will be lining out in an Irish Cup final for his home town club.

His penalty in the shoot-out helped Ballinamallard to victory over Warrenpoint and sparked scenes of great celebration at Mourneview Park, but it took some time to absorb the enormity of their feat.

“It was quite surreal and it is taking a wee while to sink in,” he admitted.

“After the game we went into the changing room, and it was hard to believe. It took a bit of time to realise we were in an Irish Cup final. It was a massive achievement and one we never would have expected at the start of the season. It was unbelievable.”

The match was being billed as Ballinamallard’s biggest cup game in their history, but despite the high pressure occasion Matty felt he and his teammates were able to avoid the distractions and focus on the game.

“I normally try not to get nervous before games and personally for me I wasn’t too bad,” he said.

“We got settled really quickly and that would definitely have helped any of our boys that were feeling a bit nervous. We took control of the game early on and I think we deserved to come out of the game as winners, even though it was on penalties.”

Key to the success was the game plan implemented by the coaching team, and Matty admitted they were delighted with how they combated Warrenpoint’s threat.

“We worked hard during the week on what we were going to do, and the game plan worked perfectly. There were no surprises on the day,” he said.

“We were playing quite good football but towards the end of the game we started to go a bit more direct and tried to get to their goal a bit quicker.

“You had to try and stay calm. We couldn’t afford to get too open and give them a chance. They had a couple of chances and John pulled off a couple of good saves but that is always going to happen in a game like that.

“I thought we defended very well as a team. That obviously starts from the front and it’s not just the back three. We worked a lot on what we were going to do when they had the ball and how to stop them breaking us down, and I think we did that well. We limited their chances.”

For the second cup game in a row the match went to a penalty shoot-out.

Against Dungannon, Smyth did not step forward, but he was keen to volunteer this time around.

“I was taking a bit of abuse from the boys during the week. They were giving off that I didn’t hit one in the last round,” he revealed.

“I do normally hit them and I don’t know why I didn’t in the last round but I said that if it went to penalties this time I would take one. I had to stand by my word then.

“There was such a good crowd you were trying to keep that to the back of your mind and just concentrate on where you were going to put the ball, and thankfully we handled it.

“I was going for the top corner but I don’t think I meant to put it that far into the top corner to be honest. It was a good enough connection but I was just hoping it wasn’t going to keep rising upwards.”

Five goals from five penalties was enough to secure their spot in the final, and Matty was keen the fans should take credit for their efforts on a memorable day.

“The fans were brilliant. We were out in the warm up and they were starting to gather and you could see that we brought a big support, more than they did. They were behind us for the whole game and it was great to see. We came back down the road and into the clubhouse, and we received a great reception there. It was unbelievable.”

Focus will now switch to the final, and the central defender reckons they can face up to Crusaders without any dread.

“Crusaders are a good side and they are obviously the favourites,” he acknowledged.

“We played them in the league cup and conceded two late goals that cost us the game.

“To be honest we were the better team on that night for a lot of the game and we have nothing to fear. Anything can happen and it is a game we will be looking forward to.”