Belfast Telegraph

Ervin dreaming of silverware again after overcoming latest injury nightmare

By Graham Luney

It doesn't matter whether it's a cup final or a low-key friendly game… Jim Ervin will play every match as if it's his last.

After two horrendous knee injuries that put him on a long, lonely road to recovery, the Ballymena United defender is determined to savour every second he is healthy and in the heat of battle.

The Belfast man has just returned to the Sky Blues first team after suffering a ruptured cruciate ligament and a grade two medial ligament injury in last May's Irish Cup final.

His right knee needed major repair and the only consolation for the right back is that he knew what lay ahead after his other knee was shattered when he turned out for Linfield six years earlier.

The smile is back on his face as he looks forward to tonight's Wasp Solutions League Cup final against Cliftonville at Windsor Park (5.30pm) but Ervin doesn't need to be reminded of this game's cruel nature.

"Any player will tell you eight and a half months away from the game is hard, especially when you know your career is short," said the 29-year-old. "I now play each game as if it's my last.

"I hold no fear, simply give my all and make the most of every second I'm on the pitch."

United licked their wounds after the Irish Cup final loss to Glenavon but Ervin was hurt physically as well as mentally on an occasion which he dreamed would be one of the greatest days of his career.

"I can remember what happened very well," he added.

"The injury happened about 26 minutes into the game after that hectic first period when nerves are around and the players are settling into the game.

"I closed Shane McCabe down and stretched for the ball but my knee buckled.

"At the time I thought it wasn't serious and I tried to play on. The adrenaline was pumping but it became obvious I couldn't play on.

"It wasn't until a week later when the scan results came through that I realised how serious the injury was.

"You expect the worst and hope for the best but the news was devastating. It's very tough to take.

"Sadly it was the second time I had suffered a bad knee injury. Something similar happened six years ago when I was at Linfield and it was the other knee in a game against Glentoran.

"It was worse, a total reconstruction. This time, although it was still serious, it wasn't as bad.

"As horrible as the first injury was, when this happened for a second time I knew what lay ahead of me and the hard work that would be involved."

A victory for the Braidmen tonight would be deserved success for a player who has been through injury hell.

Ervin added: "I've always been a winner and it would great to be part of another cup final success, especially after the Irish Cup heartbreak.

"I have great family and friends who have been very supportive and Ballymena United have been superb from the moment the injury happened.

"Hopefully there are better days ahead for the club and Glenn (Ferguson) has brought in winners.

"They may not be one of the bigger Belfast sides but they deserve all the success that comes their way.

"I feel sharp, fit and ready but it's the manager's call.

"It's been a long road back for me and there's no doubt it's tough being away from the first team. Finally, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

"But when you are training away from the boys and not playing in matches, it's a tough period.

"I've played a few reserve matches but now it's great to be part of the first team squad again and it's up to Glenn whether he wants to use me in the final. I'm just happy to say I'm ready."

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