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Coleraine 2 Glenavon 1: McLaughlin proud to put Bannsiders on countdown to Windsor

By Alex Mills

The words of his manager were still ringing in James McLaughlin's ears only seconds before he wrote himself into the Coleraine record books.

Disappointed not to make the staring 11 for the Tennent's Irish Cup semi-final showdown with Glenavon at a packed Ballymena Showgrounds, McLaughlin was introduced for the last 15 minutes.

With the game delicately poised, the only advice he was given was 'it's occasions like this that legends are made'.

Brad Lyons had shot the Bannsiders into an early second half lead, but extra-time looked to be more of a probability than possibility when James Singleton levelled things up.

But as the clock ticked down, 27-year-old McLaughlin, picked up from the obscurity of junior football a few seasons back, took on board Oran Kearney's words.

He stampeded into the box to connect with a delicious cross from Eoin Bradley and his bullet header arrowed past Jonny Tuffey.

"I don't think I saw the ball hit the back of the net because I was immediately mobbed by my team mates," quipped McLaughlin.

"Once I got good contact on it, I knew it's going in. It's been a frustrating season for me, picking up niggling injury after injury, but that makes up for some of it."

McLaughlin was quick to deflect praise in the direction of his colleagues after what had been a gruelling 90 minutes of typical firebrand cup football.

"This is all about the squad, not just one player," he added. "It's about the staff, too, not just a 16-18 man squad.

"Getting to an Irish Cup final is massive.

"You can't say you'll be stepping out in an Irish Cup final at Windsor Park every day - and coming from Coleraine I know how massive it will be for the club and town. It's crazy."

And, on his manager's words of wisdom, McLaughlin added: "Oran spoke to me when I was going on and said it's a time for legends to be made, so I was so happy to be able to make a contribution."

McLaughlin also shattered another hoodoo as Glenavon were the only Irish League club he had previously failed to find the net against.

He added: "I was talking to my brother-in-law during the week and he is full of stats about my career. He told me Glenavon were the only Premiership side I hadn't scored against.

"I thought 'great, thanks!' but there was no better way to put that right than scoring an Irish Cup semi-final winner against them.

"And to do it with a minute to go was close to perfect timing."

A beaming Kearney said: "It had been a roller coaster.

"After we scored, on the current run we are on, we've been really good in seeing out games. But the tie became wide open and we looked like the side chasing the game.

"To be honest, we had a few big scares at our end of the pitch. The one thing we have tried to drill into the boys is resilience. We've suffered cup semi final defeats before, there was a lot of hurt in there.

"We wanted to have our day. And, even with our backs against the ropes, we dug in and we kept ourselves in the game."

Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Mullan, Harkin, Ogilby, McCauley, McConaghie, Lyons, Parkhill (McLaughlin, 76 mins), McGonigle (Kee 90), Bradley. Unused subs: Douglas, McCafferty, Doherty.

Glenavon: Tuffey, Canning, Marshall, Cooper, Hall (Sykes, 60 mins), Marron, Moorhouse (Gray, 90 mins), Martyn, Elebert (Kilmartin, 85 mins), Singleton, Bates. Unused subs: Hamilton, Patton.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)

Man of the Match: David Ogilby

Match rating: 8/10

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