Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena Utd 2 - 2 Coleraine: Newcomer Bradley sends a striking statement of intent

By Billy Weir

Normally an Eoin Bradley goal guarantees three points but on Saturday the Derry GAA star found that it's a whole new ball game in more ways than one.

Handed his first start for Coleraine, the Oak Leafs' talisman quickly became the darling of the Bannsiders by opening the scoring against Ballymena United at Warden Street.

Defenders around the league beware, the Glenullin man is going to be a nightmare to deal with – full of vim and vigour, coupled with a voracious appetite for a skirmish and throw into the mix a hefty dollop of talent and an eye for a goal and Oran Kearney could have pulled off one of the signings of the season.

It's early days, of course, as it was in the match itself. Bradley's goal, where he out-muscled Johnny Taylor – words seldom witnessed in print – swivelled and shot past Dwayne Nelson was just the opening stanza.

Even better was to come for the visitors, a Stephen Carson free-kick that combined beauty and brutality in equal measure, looking to have settled matters with only 34 minutes of the game played.

He was to thump the woodwork with another effort after the restart and in between times Bradley should have had a second when his heading – not a hugely sought-after commodity in gaelic games – let him down while Gareth Tommons will feel aggrieved he wasn't awarded a penalty when hauled down and advantage only served to see him roll the ball wide.

Then, four minutes of madness. Taylor made amends in the best way possible, rising in the 64th and 68th minutes to head home two Ally Teggart corners to rescue a point that wasn't unduly jeopardised when Shane Dolan was red-carded for a tangle with Ryan McIlmoyle in injury-time.

Kearney was downbeat about waving goodbye to three points but upbeat that he's saying hello to a new snarling animal of a striker.

"Eoin has an electric background in gaelic games and he's played at the highest level," said Kearney.

"He has a fantastic left foot and is a fantastic player but the big thing is can he make the adjustment quick enough and you can see that there is so much good that can come off him but at times there's wee bits of naivety.

"He's with us to the end of the season and it depends on a lot of things. Without talking for him and he'll make the decision, I think he'll want to see how it's going with us in that if he's playing week-in, week-out and things are going well I think he'd be able to buy himself a bit of time.

"But he's loving it, he's having a great time, the boys have taken to him very well and as you can see he's a strong boy."

As is Taylor, and he will be missed this weekend when Glenn Ferguson is without the suspended defender for the trip to Dungannon Swifts.

"Johnny is suspended now, Shane Dolan will be suspended too so it's a couple of big players out for us, but we were going through the squad there and hopefully we've a couple more to come back next week so hopefully it'll go well," he said.

Ballymena United: Nelson, Kane, Ruddy, McCullagh, Taylor, Stewart (Robinson, 46 mins), Thompson, Jenkins, Dolan, McLellan (Liggett, 76 mins), Cushley (Teggart, 60 mins). Unused subs: Surgenor, Munster.

Coleraine: Drummond, Canning, McIlmoyle, Hegarty, Beverland, Ogilby, Tommons (J Bradley, 73 mins), Lowry, Browne, E Bradley, Carson. Unused subs: Douglas, Owens, Watt, McMullan.

Referee: Tim Marshall (Enniskillen)

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