Adam Lecky: From the Australian coastline to Ballymena's frontline

Lecky has formed a dangerous strike partnership with Cathair Friel this season
Lecky has formed a dangerous strike partnership with Cathair Friel this season
Bet McLean League Cup Final: Ballymena United v Linfield
Venue: Windsor Park, Belfast Date: Saturday, 16 February Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster; report and highlights on BBC Sport website

This time last year Adam Lecky was likely lying on a beach in Melbourne. On Saturday he will be leading the line for Ballymena United in the League Cup final.

The 6ft 6in striker has been a key factor in the Sky Blues' impressive season and will be a focal part of their team when they go head-to-head with Linfield in the Windsor Park showpiece.

It will further enhance what has been a spectacular return to Irish League football for the 27-year-old who joined Ballymena last summer after leaving Ballinamallard United in January 2017 to go travelling in Australia.

With 11 goals to his name and United sitting second in the league table going into the League Cup decider, can Lecky believe the difference a year has made?

"The short answer is no," he admitted.

"A year ago I was lying up with no thoughts of being back here. I was doing a bit of pre-season - if you could call it that - with a team in Melbourne just to try and get myself into some sort of shape.

"I certainly had no intentions of coming back here to play football at that stage. If you'd have said I would be back and playing in a League Cup final I would have laughed at you."

Lecky played as a striker and a midfielder for Ballinamallard
Lecky played as a striker and a midfielder for Ballinamallard

'I came home for a wedding and ended up signing'

Even when Lecky did sign for Ballymena last June, he still hadn't fully decided that he was returning to Northern Ireland - never mind the thought of finding a new football club.

"I was back home for a holiday and was doing best man for a mate's wedding," Lecky explained.

"The chance came about to chat to Ballymena boss David Jeffrey and his assistant Bryan McLaughlin. As most people know, those guys can be very persuasive.

"Within a couple of hours, I had pretty much signed a three-year contract and decided I was coming home. That probably says all you need to know about David.

"It was obviously a huge decision for me to make, but from a football point of view it's 100% been the right one."

Jeffrey explained that he was taking no chances when he got that opportunity to speak to a player whose progress he said he had always monitored.

"We had our doctor and physio there on the day and had the contract ready so we could get it all done on the same day," he revealed.

Lecky 'loving' leading the line

That preparation and attention to detail has certainly proved worthwhile for Jeffrey, whose side are sitting second in the Irish Premiership table, six points behind their cup final opponents.

Lecky has delivered 11 goals but it has been his towering presence at the head of a three-five-two formation which has earned him significant praise.

"I could tell in pre-season that we had a good squad, but it has maybe caught the players by surprise at just how well we are doing," he continued.

"To be in a cup final and competing at the top of the league is exciting. We are all just loving being a part of it."

Irish League defences have found Lecky difficult to handle
Irish League defences have found Lecky difficult to handle

The system Ballymena are playing relies heavily on Lecky's ability to hold the ball up and link the play - but it's a responsibility he is thriving on.

"It's bringing out the best in me - we know it like the back of our hand," he remarked.

"We've got such good players and I look forward to getting on to the pitch every week and playing with them."

'If we click we can turn anyone over'

Saturday's League Cup final is a third in a row for Ballymena. Having beaten Carrick Rangers comfortably in the 2017 decider, Jeffrey's men lost to Dungannon Swifts last year.

Lecky wasn't involved in either, of course, but there is one player in the Sky Blues dressing room who did taste success last February.

"Ryan Mayse scored two for Dungannon in the final and he hasn't let the boys live it down - he's been threatening to bring his medal to training," Lecky revealed.

Lecky admits that, unlike 2017 and 2018, Ballymena are underdogs against Linfield - but he is still going into the game high on confidence.

"If we turn up on the day, and we click, we can turn anyone over. We are buzzing and it would be absolutely massive for the club."

Better than lying on the beach? He pauses for a second before saying: "Yes, I think I'll take a medal over lying on the beach."