Belfast Telegraph

Irish Cup Final: Harkin hoping to cap whirlwind start with Bannsiders

By Graham Luney

Ciaron Harkin is still coming to terms with just how much his career has rocketed this year.

This time last season, the 21-year-old midfielder was battling for Institute, enjoying an Intermediate Cup success at Windsor Park but losing a play-off for cherished place in the Premiership.

In January, Coleraine boss Oran Kearney gave him a chance to shine on the big stage and he has grabbed it with both hands.

Harkin's arrival helped the Bannsiders turn the tide and, on top of a third place finish in the Premiership securing a spot in the Europa League qualifiers, the club is gunning for Linfield in tomorrow's Tennent's Irish Cup Final at Windsor Park.

"It was a bad experience for me this time last year as I missed out on promotion to the Premiership with Institute as we were beaten in the play-off," said Harkin.

"This time last year, I was playing in the Intermediate Cup final with 'Stute. We won that at Windsor Park, so that was a happy memory. But to lose out ion the play-off was a real blow for us.

"This is on a completely different level though, the build up and everything that goes with it is so much bigger. It's another experience and one which I'm looking forward to.

"I couldn't have asked for a better start to my Coleraine career, I came in at a good time.

"They were on a bad run in December, but then it quickly turned around and I didn't think we were ever going to lose."

Young players often play with plenty of enthusiasm but very little fear and Harkin, along with his young comrades such as Brad Lyons and Lyndon Kane, are ready to prove that tomorrow.

"There's no doubt there will be a few nerves as there's a lot of build up to the game but, as soon as you step out on to the pitch, that's it gone, you just have to get on with it," added Harkin.

"We've had a good record against Linfield in the league so far this season, we just need another performance like we did earlier in the season.

"Yes, they have won the league, but they are not invincible, anyone can be beaten.

"There's a few of my mates and family members bringing a bus down from Derry on Saturday so I'll have to impress them. We have had great support from Derry this season, there's a lot of interest in how Coleraine are doing because there's a few of us from the city playing in the team.

"Everybody is checking for the score every week and see how I'm doing and I appreciate that.

"Having a few other Derry lads at the club really helped me settle in straight away and I was just able to concentrate on my football."

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