Ballinamallard Chairman Tom Elliott admits that it is hard to come to terms with the fact the club are on the brink of an Irish Cup final.

For many years Tom has watched from afar as the best clubs in the province walk out onto the turf at Windsor Park to contest the showpiece event of the footballing calendar but this year it is the Mallards that will make that walk, and Tom is still struggling to accept this unexpected reality.

“Even for some of us involved, we are pinching ourselves every day,” he admitted.

“It is a big moment for us all. I have watched Irish Cup finals for years and attended one at Windsor Park many years ago, but I can’t believe Ballinamallard are there now.

“It is a huge achievement and the town and village is buzzing. It’s not just around the village either, it goes further. You hear of buses going from Kesh, from Castlederg, from Sligo. I have to say there is a massive community interest and that is brought about by the positive relations we have throughout the area.”

On the pitch the players’ minds will be focussed on trying to lift the trophy, but the cup run has also given the club a boost off the pitch.

While the prize money on offer may not be life changing for the club, the increased profile provided by their run to the final and the prospect of an appearance in European competition could yet prove to have long lasting benefits.

“The direct financial impact is helpful but it’s not going to keep us afloat for years, although I’m hoping it will add that extra bit of energy and incentive into our sponsors,” said Tom.

“There is a thought process out there that this will set us up for life, but it doesn’t. The Irish Cup final directly is not a huge attraction financially. It’s not like winning the league. If you got to Europe that is a different financial category altogether but I think what it does is that it is really good for the sponsors and the people that have stuck with us.

“It hasn’t always been this good and I think back to the days at the end of last season when we got relegated, and the early part of this season.

“ I remember there was quite a bit of doom and gloom around the club in September and October and the sponsors that have stuck with us deserve credit. I hope they get something out if it as well. They have stuck by us and there is a sense of support for them now. They did not abandon us in our time of need.”

The cup final appearance has heaped an additional workload on the club’s committee members and volunteers.

Arrangements for ticket allocations have had to be organised and they have had to deal with an increased media focus in recent days. The club have also had to submit an application for an extraordinary UEFA Licence to ensure they are eligible to enter the Europa League qualifiers if they overcome Crusaders.

Tom is only too happy to have the club shoulder the extra workload, and he is optimistic that the team can deliver on the pitch when the big day arrives.

“No matter who we talk to people are saying we can do it, and I have no doubt Harry is looking at it that way as well,” he said.

“There is no huge pressure on us because we are vastly the underdogs. I think the pressure will be on Crusaders and that is not a bad thing for us. Harry will be thinking about tactics but I would imagine he will not have a huge amount of work to do in motivating the players and getting them up for the game.