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Through the archives: Michael Guy

There are different ways to write your name into the folklore of a football club.

For some, it will come after hanging up their boots up having made hundreds of appearances for a club. Others are remembered for lifting this trophy or that one, and still for others, just a couple of memorable goals can do the trick.

Michael Guy falls into the latter category, after his brief stint as a Larne player, in 1987. Guy, an experienced striker formerly of Ballymena United and Coleraine by the time he arrived at Inver Park, was coaxed out of retirement by then boss Paul Malone.

Like many, Guy found it hard to resist the lure of signing on for Larne after a conversation with one of the club’s greatest ever bosses. Even though he thought his Irish League days were behind him at the age of 33, there was to be one final – and memorable – swan song still left in him…much to the delight of the Inver faithful.

Michael takes up the story: “It was the tail end of 1986 and I was out of senior football at that stage, having left Ballymena. I just hadn’t re-signed for Ballymena at the end of the season and ended up drifting away from senior football. I had probably lost a bit of interest at that stage to be honest and I was doing a bit of coaching with Roe Valley, my local club.

“It was just before Christmas when Paul Malone got in touch. I had bumped into him playing in one of the summer cups earlier in the year.

“I also was with him when we were both playing at Ballymena. I wasn’t overly surprised when he went into management. I know a bad injury cut short his playing days by a bit, so I could have seen him going into management.

“I always enjoyed keeping myself fit, so that wasn’t really an issue when I came back into play.”

Considering he ended up drifting away from neighbours Ballymena, and top flight football altogether, just what was it that brought the striker in from the cold?

“Paul talked me into it,” he said.

“By that stage, I had already been asked by Ballymena if I would consider coming back. That had been in my mind a bit, but when Paul phoned it sounded interesting and I had always enjoyed playing at Larne when I was with other clubs. I knew what sort of team Larne was, they were one of the smaller teams in league but they had been doing well and had a good side back at that time.”

Manager Malone certainly was building a good side by that stage, and they would go on to finish third in the top tier at the end of that season. However, it was in the Irish Cup that year where they were to make a little bit of history. By 1987 it was more than 50 years since a Larne side had been in an Irish Cup decider.

If Guy was brought into fire them to into contention for trophy success, it looked like a shrewd move.

“I wouldn’t say that I was ever a 30-goal-a-season striker or anything like that, but I had always done well in cups,” he said.

“We got past Ballymena in the first round and then I managed to score two in the quarters in Ards.”

Having helped to see off the Braidmen, the semi-final draw threw up another tie against a side Guy is synonymous with, in the shape of Coleraine.

He was to add to his quarter-final brace with another two goals, which have lived long in the memories of all Larne fans of that vintage. Two first half goals at the Oval, the first where he robbed the defender, cut in from the left and slotted home, the second a deft header from a long Vinny Magee ball up field, was enough to seal Larne’s place in the final. Their first since 1935.

“Coleraine had a decent side at that stage, but then again so did we,” he said.

“Larne had a lot of good, honest players. The likes of Vinny Magee, Paul Carland, Bryan McLaughlin and others – they had the spine of a good team and Paul Malone had them very hard to beat.”

Having seen off three of that season’s top six sides to get to the final, Glentoran lay in wait, in the decider.

“We knew it would be tough against the Glens in the final, but we had beaten them at Inver in the league that season,” he recalled.

“We also knew there wouldn’t be much in it, probably only one goal and that was how it proved, with Glentoran obviously getting it (through Gerry Mullan).

“It’s hard to know how players will react when you’re in a final, because once you get there it’s a one-off chance at it. You have to give your best, because you don’t get another chance at it.

“I was fortunate enough to win two with Coleraine, one with Ballymena, but I would have loved to win that one with Larne to be honest.

“I came to Larne when I was 33 and I suppose my experience was part of why Paul was keen to bring me in. You always try to pass that on where you can.”

Despite failing to narrowly add to his haul of silverware in that 1987 final, Guy didn’t give up passing on his experience at the age of 33. Having hung up his boots in the senior game after leaving Larne, he returned to local junior club Roe Valley.

He continued playing and coaching there until just last season…incredibly, making his last appearance at the age of 66!

“I played for them towards the end of last season, when they needed a player,” he said modestly.

“I always said I would play until I was 50. The BBC did a feature with me when I turned 50 and they asked me if I would keep going until I was 60. I laughed and said no way, but then I kept on going and was playing beyond even that.

“Playing and training is a great habit and you keep going for as long as you can. I enjoy keeping fit anyway, it just takes a bit longer to recover.

“I enjoy passing on a bit of my experience, but it just depends on the younger players, if they want to listen or take it on board.”

Having given so much time to Roe Valley, Michael hasn’t had many opportunities to take in Irish League games of late. He has, however, caught glimpses of both Larne and Coleraine – and he was impressed with what he saw.

“The last match I was actually at, was the Irish Cup final, between Coleraine and Cliftonville (in 2018),” he said.

“I watched the watched Larne Irish Cup game against Coleraine on TV last season and it was some game. Larne played them off the park in the first half, the game should have been over. Whether they ran out of steam or Coleraine changed their tactics, it all changed after half-time.

“When I look at the Irish League now, it’s a different game to the one I played in. It’s a lot more tactical. When I was at Coleraine I was lucky to play in a team who had good players in it from 1 to 11. It allowed people to go out and do their jobs.

“I remember Bertie Peacock (the manager) would have picked the team, told us what it was and just told us: ’go out and do your job’”

Going out and doing his job – goalscorer Michael Guy will be remembered for exactly that, as he came out of retirement to fire Larne to their first Cup final in more than half a century.

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