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Healy backs Byrne to bolster title defence

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy yesterday hardened the Blues' Danske Bank Premiership title defence by snapping up striker Kurtis Byrne from St Pat's Athletic.

The 27-year-old, who was being tracked by a number of clubs, will not be available until the transfer window opens in January.

After losing out on Davy McDaid, who snubbed a Blues offer and instead signed for Championship side Larne, Healy was not to be denied this time.

After a horrible October, Healy's boys have turned up the title heat again having racked up crucial wins over Coleraine and Glenavon in their last two outings.

And they'll be hot favourites to add another three points to their kitty when they face Dungannon Swifts at Windsor Park tomorrow.

"You are only expected to win if you turn up and do your job," said former Northern Ireland striker Healy. "I watched Dungannon recently. They have players who can hurt you.

"They had a run of negative results, but they hit four against Carrick Rangers last week, so they will be coming to Windsor Park to enjoy it.

"For whatever reason, we've found it difficult against Dungannon at times, especially at Windsor.

"We'll certainly not be taking them lightly. We'll be giving them the respect they deserve, as we do with every team.

"But it's a game that if we turn up, we should win."

Healy is thrilled with his latest piece of business and reckons Byrne will be a big asset in their title defence.

"He's a good age for a striker at 27 and he comes with a lot of experience gained at Dundalk, Bohemians and St Pat's. Kurtis is technically very good and, having spoken to him at length, he can't wait to play here."

Healy will be without Aaron Burns for tomorrow's game.

The midfielder damaged a knee in the win at Mourneview last week.

"Burnsie was a big part of our success last season," said Healy. "He's been unfortunate. It was a crucial win at Glenavon.

"It was the type of game we would have drawn or even lost when we were going through that sticky spell a lot of weeks back.

"I noticed a big change in the tempo in our training leading up to the Glenavon game. I think it was all down to the belief and confidence we got from the Coleraine result.

"We have good players at this club. They are always under pressure from people outside of our club.

"We've handled that pressure. It was a huge six points for us in the space of a few days, but we know there is a long way to go.

"If we keep the same belief heading into December and get to January, where we finished really strongly last season, then we'll hopefully put ourselves in with a chance of winning something.

"It's not pressure at this football club, it's demands. I don't work under pressure, I work under demands and I love working under the demands of this club."

Healy believes the title race could be one of the tightest for many years, adding: "I think it's a great product for everyone - the clubs, the press, the sponsors, it's just what we want. What you don't want is a team running away with it.

"It is a tough league. Crusaders have been there and done it, Cliftonville have been there a few seasons back, Coleraine and Glenavon have been in and around cup competitions, but the league is a different matter."

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