Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey has said that Adam Lecky "gave a big thank you to his team-mates" after scoring a hat-trick in the County Antrim Shield semi-final win against H&W Welders.
The striker missed the start of the season through injury and was sent off on his return against Crusaders.
The Sky Blues reached their fourth Shield final in eight years with a 4-0 win over Championship outfit Welders.
"It's tremendous to have the big man back in such good form," said Jeffrey.
After being injured in pre-season, Lecky returned to the Ballymena side in their extra-time defeat by Crusaders in the League-Cup quarter-finals but the 28-year-old was dismissed late on for reacting to a challenge.
"Adam was disappointed when he was sent off and we had to sit without him for three games," said Jeffrey.
"He was really, really down but I told him there was going to be no criticism and to make sure when he did come back he was ready to contribute.
"Tonight he gave a big thank you to his team-mates who have supported him throughout. It's been a big boost."
Injury boost for the Sky Blues
Jeffrey's side have had an injury-hit start to their campaign with key players Lecky, Cathair Friel, Tony Kane and Leroy Millar all having spells on the sidelines.
However the 57-year-old has praised the players who have been available for the Braidmen.
"We were coming in to tonight's game off the back of a good performance against Cliftonville and the players have battled and worked very hard," added Jeffrey.
"Our situation of the unavailability of players has been well documented but the players have been faithfully plugging away.
"It was good to have one or two back tonight, which did help.
"I thought our attitude and application were very good, particularly in the first half, and we're delighted to be through to another final."
Ballymena will face Irish Premiership leaders Cliftonville in the decider and Jeffrey acknowledges the challenge that awaits in the final.
"The County Antrim Shield is a favourite competition of mine, from when I was a player through to when I came into management," added the United boss.
"It's nice knowing that we've been able to get to another final and we'll look forward to it.
"It'll be tough, we know how well they are playing. Paddy McLaughlin has them playing tremendously well.
"But for now we're just pleased to have progressed, and to have progressed in such a manner."