Women's League Cup final: Sion Swifts coach Canning calls on squad players to 'step up'

Kendra McMullan
Kendra McMullan scored twice when the Swifts won the Irish Cup in 2017
Women's Premiership League Cup final
Venue: Seaview, Belfast Date: Friday, 28 June Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Watch live on the BBC Sport website

Sion Swifts coach Tommy Canning has insisted their squad players will "step up" for the Women's Premiership League Cup final on Friday.

The Swifts will be without a number of key players when they take on Glentoran in the decider at Seaview.

Captain Kendra McMullan will be at her sister's wedding while Northern Ireland international Claragh Connor and Teegan Lynch have long-term injuries.

"We know we won't be at full strength but we're still upbeat," Canning said.

"There is a reason why we have a squad and we are confident that we have enough strength in depth to give a good account of the club.

"Tony [McGinley, Sion Swifts manager] recruited well in the close season and this is an ideal opportunity for girls who haven't played as often to step in to a cup final arena and enjoy the experience.

"The timing of the match is desperately unlucky for Kendra and she is devastated - she's a dynamic midfielder and there's no denying we'd much rather have her available.

"Tasmin McCarter has been our vice-captain and has taken the armband a few times already this season when Kendra has been injured. She is more than capable of leading the team in the final."

Midfield battle

The Strabane outfit go into Friday night's encounter in third place in the Women's Premiership table, two points behind the second-placed Glens.

It was 2-2 when the sides met in the league last month with the Swifts, who will have Jamaica World Cup goalkeeper Nicole McClure in nets, coming from behind to secure a point.

Nicole McClure
McClure played in Jamaica's 4-1 World Cup defeat by Australia

Although confident in his side's ability, Canning has insisted the Glens are favourites to win the cup and believes the midfield battle could be key.

"Glentoran are on an incredible run and a club the size of them really should be the favourites against a club of our stature," Canning continued.

"They are a formidable outfit, they won a cup last year and they are leading the league. Demi Vance is playing really well, Nadene Caldwell is flying and Rachel Rogan is scoring goals.

"That said, we haven't lost ourselves since the opening day of the season and player-for-player the teams are well balanced.

"The middle of the park will be an interesting battle and whoever gets on top in there could decide who wins the game. Nicole has been superb for us all season and we will need her to be on her game in the final."

Finalists are evenly matched

Like the Swifts, the Glens have only lost once in the league so far this season and go into the cup final on the back of a 7-0 win over Derry City.

They will have had to cope with the loss of former manager Diarmuid O'Carroll but have added US signings Jessica Davis and Jackie Simpson to the squad since his departure for a coaching job in Las Vegas.

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Emma Higgins, who signed for the Glens just before the start of this season, disagrees with the suggestion that the east Belfast club are the cup final favourites.

Emma Higgins
Higgins played club football in Iceland for seven years before signing for the Glens

"We do miss Diarmuid but it wasn't a big upheaval. I think people expected us to drop off a bit but we came together and used it as extra motivation to succeed," the former Leeds United Ladies keeper said,

"I think both teams are going into the cup final in very much the same kind of form. Sion have done really well to get to the final - as have we - and they are a very competitive side."

Higgins, who has made 87 appearances for Northern Ireland, is expecting a physical encounter at Seaview.

"Speed would be their biggest attribute and they are a very fit bunch of girls who can cause teams a lot of problems," she continued.

"Nicole has made a great impact on their team and it was great to see her playing in the World Cup. She will no doubt be using her experience to help the Swifts players, as I will be with my team-mates.

"To lift the trophy and bring success to the club would be a great achievement and one that we would all take a great sense of pride in. I came to the Glens to win big trophies and this is a good opportunity to do that."