Rathfriland Reds enjoy 'dream day' cup final victory

A FATHER and his two sons from Rathfriland have enjoyed what they’re calling ‘a dream day’ at the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
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Local businessman Ben Graham, Olly (13) and Eli (11 next month) are huge Liverpool fans.

Their heroes didn't let them down on Sunday, scoring a dramatic 1-0 victory over Chelsea on an unforgettable occasion for the family.

Ben told Chronicle Sport: "We are the best supporters in the world, the atmosphere we create is special. Wembley is Anfield South!

TAKE IT AS RED...Local businessman Ben Graham, along with sons Olly and Eli, cheering Liverpool to a dramatic win against Chelsea.TAKE IT AS RED...Local businessman Ben Graham, along with sons Olly and Eli, cheering Liverpool to a dramatic win against Chelsea.
TAKE IT AS RED...Local businessman Ben Graham, along with sons Olly and Eli, cheering Liverpool to a dramatic win against Chelsea.

"Even the billions spent by Chelsea and VAR couldn't keep it from us."

Ben and the boys see the Reds "as often as they can get tickets." And they aren't the only Anfield fans in the house! Mum Gail wasn't on this adventure, but has enjoyed many trips in the past - and played her part for the Carabao Cup decider.

"She’s always very instrumental, keeping our memberships right, getting the tickets on board," said Ben.

It was that little bit extra special, with this being legendary manager Jurgen Klopp's final few months in charge.

The Grahams had ringside seats – metres from the man himself, Jurgen Klopp.The Grahams had ringside seats – metres from the man himself, Jurgen Klopp.
The Grahams had ringside seats – metres from the man himself, Jurgen Klopp.

Ben's a massive fan of the German. "What a guy. Not just on the pitch, but off the pitch. What I've heard from people in the know who personally know him, he's a special character. A proper role model. A lovely man with faith in Christ. Class, a really genuine person."

Another massive bonus was a Northern Ireland international - Conor Bradley - being a key part of the winning team.

"He's a joy," said Ben. "I was also lucky enough to see him make his debut for Northern Ireland - and with him being a Liverpool player that was extra special.”

The director at Graham Plant Painting is also involved with Rathfriland FC, with both boys playing for the club's youth teams.

However, the Anfield adventures aren't quite over yet for this momentous season...

Ben explains: "My brother, Tim, and I will be going back for the last game of the season. Tim is a strength and conditioning coach - he owns StrengthFarm - and a client of his has secured two tickets for the game against Wolves - which will be Jurgen’s last game of the season, against Wolves. So, otherwise, there would have been zero chance of getting tickets! When we realised this was going to be the last game for him, we said 'we need to go!' Tim coaches high-end athletes and he's very lucky to get his hands on these tickets."

Meanwhile, Klopp has called the Carabao victory his "most special trophy" after they overcame more injury adversity to win at Wembley. Already without 11 first-team players, they lost Ryan Gravenberch to an ankle problem after half-an-hour and finished the match with four academy players on the pitch, but the youngsters held out long enough for captain Virgil van Dijk to head the 118th-minute winner.

"In more than 20 years it is easily the most special trophy I have ever won. Absolutely exceptional," said Klopp. "Sometimes people ask me if I'm proud of things and it's really tricky, I wish I could feel pride more often but tonight is an overwhelming feeling. I was proud of everyone involved in everything here: I was proud of our people (fans) for the way they pushed us."