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Irish Cup: Coleraine's Bradley wants to give Linfield double dose of blues

By Alex Mills

Eoin Bradley believes lightning can strike twice in today's Tennent's Irish Cup Final at Windsor Park. The 33-year-old striker was instrumental in helping Glenavon defeat Linfield at Windsor Park to win the glittering prize 12 months ago and he's now plotting another raid on domestic football's top knockout trophy.

This time Bradley, known to his team-mates as 'Skinner', has swapped the blue of Glenavon for the stripes of Coleraine, but he's determined to enjoy a similar outcome.

He may have played a mere 45 out of a possible 270 minutes of late - due to suspension - however, he has already been gripped by Cup Final fever.

The former Derry GAA player from Kilrea is a man for the big occasion and he is relishing walking out at the international arena in front of a bumper Cup Final crowd of more than 11,000.

"This is what we are in the game for," insists Bradley. "The tension is already building at the club and in the town.

"I sampled what it was all about last season when I was at Glenavon. It was a fantastic day and I'm talking about the build-up even before the final itself.

"And, of course, we got the result we wanted. Linfield certainly started very well, but once we scored, it seemed to knock the stuffing out of them.

"Can lightning strike twice?

"Well, why not. It's a cup final, a two horse race.

"It's basically down to whatever team wants it most on the day."

An Irish Cup Final appearance appeared to be well off Bradley's radar when he sustained an horrific injury against Portadown back in January, puncturing a lung and fracturing ribs after colliding with a post.

It was reckoned his season was over, but he quipped: "Thankfully, I'm a quick healer.

"I was back in the gym within three weeks and was back playing again within six or seven weeks," he added.

Bradley believes the Bannsiders will need to bring their 'A' game to Windsor Park as David Healy's boys have practically flattened everything in front of them since the turn of the year and are now unbeaten in 18 games.

Ironically, their only defeat came back in January when Jordan Allen's goal earned Coleraine a 1-0 win at Windsor Park.

And, it was no strange coincidence it was Bradley's first game back in a Coleraine shirt after rejoining the club following a two year stint with the Lurgan Blues.

"You have to give credit where it is due," he added. "Linfield have been in an unbelievable run of form.

"To pull back a nine point lead on Crusaders was an astonishing feat in itself.

"And, once they reached the top of the table, they had the bottle to go and finish the job in the final game of the campaign at Cliftonville last weekend.

"They are the form team, there is no doubt about that. They'll be big favourites in the final, but we are happy enough with that.

"They've the league title already in the bag, so hopefully they've been doing a bit of over-celebrating this week."

Regardless of the outcome, Bradley insists it has been a successful season for the north west boys.

"We've already secured our place in European football, which is a massive bonus for the club," added Bradley.

"We've finished in third place in the league, we are in Europe and we've an Irish Cup final to negotiate.

"The European qualification earns the club big financial rewards and hopefully some of it will be given to Oran (Kearney) to bring in a few players to strengthen the squad.

"This is a great group of players at the club.

"The young boys have come of age this season and they are already relishing the prospect of playing in the final," said Bradley.

"It's the biggest day on the local calendar and it's great to be part of it."

Bradley insists the battle for a first team shirt is now on, adding: "I have been out for a few games, but got a run-out against Ballymena United last week.

"It was always in the plan that I would play only half a game.

"It's a bit unfortunate that Davy Kee can't play in the final.

"He's still currently on loan from Linfield, which is a big disappointment for him.

"A few of the boys are suffering from a few little niggles, but everyone will be raring to go, make no mistake about that.

"The club is buzzing, the town is buzzing.

"It's all set up for a great day, so hopefully we can get the result we want."

Meanwhile, former Linfield player Steven Douglas is not making any retirement plans with Coleraine's young guns giving him a new lease of life.

"I'm 39 but the lads are making me feel much younger," he said.

"I'm not ready to hang the boots up yet - there's Glenn Ferguson who played into his 40s and I'm just appreciative of everything I have achieved.

"To be looking forward to an Irish Cup Final and European football is a special feeling. There's been a lot of life after Linfield for me.

"The Blues will be hard to beat, they are deserved champions and the best team in the league.

"They will be big favourites but we'll give them a game.

"But the Blues had to work hard for their title win and we have beaten them this season. They know they are not invincible.

"They didn't turn up in last year's final so that's extra motivation for them but our lads will relish the challenge and it's a one-off game," said Douglas.

"In our league the team at the bottom can beat the one at the top on any given day," he added.

 

Meet the players: Linfield

Sean Ward gives us his lowdown on his team-mates

Roy Carroll: Has everyone in his phone named Cristiano. “(Rolls eyes) Sorry lads, let me take this, Ronaldo again.”

Mark Stafford: True warrior and a keen fisherman. “Big man loves a tackle” — See what we did there?

Cameron Stewart: Always wearing flip flops and thinks he is in Baywatch. Even makes us call him ‘Big Mitch’.

Sammy Clingan: Real bromance with Matthew Clarke and the two frequently flirt over Scotland’s big two.

Mark Haughey: Could play in his suit. Bribed his boss to credit him with a goal on the Irish League show… says Jimmy.

Jimmy Callacher:  25 going on 40 with the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.

Andy Waterworth: Tells us he runs the IFA, and still hoping James McCarthy tweets him a good luck message. Goal machine.

Stephen Lowry: You can run, but you can’t hide from Lowry. Legs like an octopus.

Kris Bright: Strikes a great ball, often adulated with “Crikey, what a rippa”. Boys still haven’t figured out he isn’t Australian.

Michael McLellan: Recently outraged at Kim Kardashian’s most recent airbrushed gluteal pics. Big is bootyful!

Kirk Millar: Silky skills and a great tan. Has an English accent on Tuesdays. Thinks he’s Pete from TOWIE. Opening up a sunbed shop with Reece Glendinning.

Aaron Burns: Uses a hair band to tighten the sleeves on his jersey #Gunshow #tricep

Matthew Clarke: True Blue. Constantly flirting with Sammy Clingan. They are too cute!

Chris Casement: From Belvoir to Banbridge. Now speaks with a country accent and is a keen admirer of the Ulster Farmers Union.

Stephen Fallon: Very talented footballer and keen Crossfitter. All about the gainz #muscle

Jamie Mulgrew: Following successful testimonial year, is funding Reece and Kirks sunbed shop #BetterCallSaul.

Reece Glendinning: Did I mention the sunbed shop may do hair transplants?

Josh Carson: Runs about thinking he is Tom Cruise in Top Gun with his fur collar coat.

Jonny Frazer: Jonny Gaga. Nobody puts baby in the corner.

Gareth Deane: Follows big Roy everywhere using Cockney slang, still thinking he is at QPR.

Niall Quinn: Studying at Coleraine University, and has a season ticket at Kelly’s. Could be a wanted man. Great left foot.

Ross Clarke: Impossible to get the ball off... because we are all afraid of him... Great guy! (frightened).

Ross Gaynor: Talented golfer, plays off 7 and loves his clubs — he has so many!

Paul Smyth: Paul Healy. Went to the Euros, and now floats about with a Louis Vuitton wash-bag, wearing his school uniform. Super talent.

 

Meet the players: Coleraine

Steven Douglas gives us his lowdown on his team-mates

Chris Johns: Keeps himself to himself, the mad one, typical keeper, crazy gang. But he’s done okay this season.

Lyndon Kane: Local boy done good. “He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own, Lyndon Kane, his fringe never moves.”

Adam Mullan: Any more laid back and he’d be horizontal, until the Grey Goose is open.

Ciaron Harkin: Jack in the box who must never get speaking at home... The baby of the group.

Steven Douglas: The Rolls Royce is still going strong.

David Ogilby: The quiet giant. The ball may go past him but the players definitely do not. Captain Marvel.

Darren McCauley: Step-over McCauley who once thought he was Slim Shady.

Neil McCafferty: It’s all about me, nothing more to say, me, me, me!

James McLaughlin: The silent assassin with the hammer right foot who loves the Glasgow Rangers.

Gary Twigg: Who’s that? Is he a new signing? Best friend at the club is his physio.

Gareth McConaghie: No-nonsense centre-back who loves getting his photo taken by the club photographer, his daddy!

Brad Lyons: Chocolate man AKA Simon the chipmonk #mummyslittlesoldier

Ian Parkhill: Bigfoot who would confuse a Polish translator.

Mark Edgar: Daddy Mark, the real quiet Casper the Ghost.

Jamie McGonigle: The gambler #mcgonagoal “Daddy, you drive today.”

Michael Doherty: The settled one turned goalkeeping coach who wears a skirt and drums to the bagpipes.

Eoin Bradley: I’m the star man, just give the ball to me, I’ll do the rest in my blue plimsolls #5euro

Jordan Allan: The Scottish bootroom. “No way man, a wizny affside.” “Wit, he ran intae me.”

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