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Burns so proud to join elite list after Player of Year title

By Stuart McKinley

Crusaders defender Billy Joe Burns has netted a double after all.

The Shore Road men's Irish Cup semi-final defeat to Glenavon saw them miss out on the opportunity to add the local game's biggest knockout prize to their league title, but it hasn't stopped Burns from walking off with a second award.

His impressive performances in Crusaders' march to a second successive Irish League crown have won Burns the Bank of Ireland UK Ulster Footballer of the Year award.

That sees him join a list that contains other Crusaders greats Albert Campbell, Pat McCoy, Kevin McKeown and current manager Stephen Baxter in wining the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club prize, which was won by his team-mate Paul Heatley last season.

"I'm over the moon with it. Just being part of all the great names through Irish League history and being in there with them is a bit surreal," said Burns, who along with his team-mates will get their hands on the Gibson Cup after today's game with Coleraine at Seaview.

It hasn't only been his individual displays in another outstanding season for the team that won Burns the award, the oldest of its kind in Ireland having been established in 1951.

His six league goals this season also puts the 26-year-old fourth in the club's scoring charts, with only Heatley, Jordan Owens and Jordan Forsythe ahead of him.

Heatley was one of two runners-up, alongside Glenavon goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey.

Glenavon weren't to be outdone altogether as winger Joel Cooper was awarded the Young Player of the Year prize.

Twenty-year-old Cooper has quickly established himself in the first team at Mourneview Park, making 30 league appearances so far after only joining the club from Championship side Ballyclare Comrades last summer.

His progress was quickly noticed by Northern Ireland Under-21 manager Jim Magilton, who has included the winger in his squads throughout the season.

Cooper (left) will be hoping to land a double himself, with the Lurgan Blues building up to the Irish Cup final against Linfield in a fortnight.

Glenavon can clinch third place in the table and qualification for the Europa League today if they win or draw away to Glentoran and Cliftonville fail to match their result when they take on Linfield at Windsor Park.

Belfast Telegraph


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