Belfast Telegraph

Harkin shrugs off eligibility mess after flooring United

By Billy Weir

The man at the centre of Irish League football's latest player eligibility cock-up was much happier to talk about things on the pitch than off it on Saturday evening.

Ruairi Harkin's fabulous strike had put the icing on the cake to Neil McCafferty's free-kick opener as Coleraine eased to a derby win over Ballymena United, but all talk was of the midfielder.

Harkin's name was on an Irish Football Association list of players due to be suspended last weekend but seemingly no date was included and the matter only came to light when raised by Coleraine themselves earlier in the week.

Where the blame lies and the ramifications of it remains to be seen but Harkin would seem to be the innocent victim in the middle of yet another unseemly mess.

"To be honest, I was only informed about it on Thursday night and I don't even think about as it's in the hands of the club," was the midfielder's official line.

"I talked to Oran (Kearney) about it but I know the club are looking after it, all I can do is keep scoring goals and winning matches and we'll be happy."

And that was certainly the case on Saturday as, inevitably, he got himself on the scoreline with an 11th-minute strike that all but sealed the match.

It added to McCafferty's fourth-minute opener that was a combination of a clever free-kick, the wet conditions and Dwayne Nelson's blunder - and, with United on the crest of a slump at the moment, there never looked like any way back.

It's now a measly two points from seven Danske Bank Premiership games since United last tasted victory - at Coleraine - and their cause wasn't helped on Saturday with Kyle McVey (suspected broken ankle) and Michael Ruddy (groin) adding to an already crippling injury list.

The Bannsiders, though, are riding high, their early season stutters now well and truly behind them, with Harkin delighted to talk about football and the change in fortunes they've had.

"We're going really well at the minute and clean sheets are the key because it gives us attackers the chance to go forward and win games for us because if you keep a clean sheet you've always got a chance," he commented.

"We're very strong at the minute in midfield with Howard Beverland in there, he helps us be a lot more solid all round. We have Shane (McGinty) and Parky (Ian Parkhill) on the wings with a lot of pace as well and they're working hard which gives myself and the likes of Mark Miskimmin opportunities."

On his goal, he added: "It wasn't a bad strike. That's three now and I have to get a few more to keep the gaffer sweet."

Keeping Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson sweet will not be such an easy task, but they have an immediate chance to bounce back with tomorrow night's clash against Dungannon Swifts in the Wasp Solutions League Cup quarter-final.

"We paid the price for making mistakes again and we're chasing the game from then on," he admitted.

"We had to change a couple of things with injuries and we could nearly field a full team of injured and unavailable players now but we'll get through it, work hard and hopefully get a result on Tuesday night."

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