Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders paint town red and black to celebrate league win

Crusaders 1 - Coleraine 0

By David Mason

It was fitting that Jordan Owens had the final say in Crusaders' last home game of the season. The giant striker penned his own little chapter in the illustrious history of the club earlier in the campaign by becoming the all-time leading goal scorer - he has now found the net 163 times.

And, on a sunny afternoon at Seaview, he was part of another record-bursting occasion. This time, Owens and his team mates achieved where others failed as they made a successful defence of the Danske Premiership title.

The big man, not for the first time, took centre stage, popping up just after the half-hour to prod home the winner against a battling Coleraine side, who left north Belfast convinced they had their pockets picked.


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However, it wasn't a day for commitment, passion or hard graft ... the game had more of a pre-season feel to it. The Gibson Cup, of course, already had the red and black ribbons draped on both sides, even before kick-off.

Supporters came to party. The match was a side attraction. And, the celebrations got into full swing on the final blast of referee Mervyn Smyth's whistle.

When skipper Colin Coates mounted the podium to receive the coveted trophy, the spray of champagne fizzed into the afternoon air, coupled with an explosion of red and black ticker-tape. The famous old trophy had taken up residence on the Shore Road for another 12 months.

"This title win is probably more satisfying than last season's title," beamed Coates. "Last year, we were euphoric to win the title for the first time in 18 years, but to retain the trophy means more.

"It's very special to the players because I think winning back-to-back championships proves we are a great team.

"Any questions that were asked of us, we answered, and any blips, we bounced back from. We always responded."

Coates believes it will take some time for the historic significance of their success to sink in. He added: "There have been a number of very good teams here over the years, but no Crusaders side has won the title back-to-back.

"We have done something those great teams didn't do, so there is a real sense of achievement.

"Winning the title also qualifies us for the Champions League and puts the club on a firm financial footing and the importance of that isn't lost on the player."

Coates admits he didn't think days like this would be possible when he joined the club over a decade ago.

"I made my debut a couple of years before we got relegated in 2005," he continued. "I remember playing alongside Jeff Spiers at centre-back against Glenavon in the play-off when we were relegated.

"Those were dark days and if someone had come to us back then and said we'd be winning back-to-back titles, nobody would have believed it. "A lot of people deserve great credit, not least the manager, board and players.

"Past players who have also come and gone and they did a lot to get us where we are now.

"Players like Davy Rainey and Eamon Doherty played a big part in getting us to this point, they contributed and were important building blocks.

"The stadium has really progressed and people at the club, particularly in the backroom staff, have worked tirelessly.

"Four or five of us have been out on our feet for the last few weeks, but the medical team has really got us fit and ready to play.

"Nobody notices that work behind the scenes, but the players certainly appreciate it," he added.

CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Coates (Mitchell, 71 mins), McClean, Whyte, Caddell (Clarke, 86 mins), Snoddy, Forsythe, Owens, Heatley (O'Carroll, 90 mins).

COLERAINE: Johns, Lyons (Morrow, 73 mins), Ogilby, Beverland, Mullan, McCauley (Parkhill, 71 mins), McCafferty (Law, 63 mins), Higgins, Brown, McLaughlin, McGonigle.

Match Rating: 5/10

Man of match: Gavin Whyte

Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)

Belfast Telegraph


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