Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena's 'class act' Kofi Balmer would shine in full-time football, says Addis

Rising star: Kofi Balmer has been impressing at the heart of the
Ballymena United defence this season
Rising star: Kofi Balmer has been impressing at the heart of the Ballymena United defence this season

By Steven Beacom

Ballymena United's teenage sensation Kofi Balmer has the qualities to make the grade in professional football across the water, according to team-mate Jonny Addis.

Several talented youngsters have left Irish League football over the past 12 months and become hits in England and Scotland. Addis feels that Balmer could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Gavin Whyte, Mark Sykes and Bobby Burns.

Ahead of today's big derby against Coleraine, former Glentoran ace Addis spoke about the abilities of his 18-year-old central defensive partner.

"Kofi is a brilliant player. Playing with him this season, it's been clear he is a class act," said Addis, who has had an outstanding campaign himself. "He is only 18 but already he is a man. He can handle the physical battles and as a footballer is good with both feet.

"I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a move in the next couple of years because he's an outstanding talent and he is also mature enough to cope with it."

David Jeffrey's men will enter today's clash at home to the Bannsiders knowing that mathematically the title is finally out of their reach.

While there will be frustration that they couldn't have taken the championship battle down to the wire, the Sky Blues deserve credit for being the only side to compete for most of the season with champions Linfield.

Now the aim is to clinch the runners-up position and earn a place in Europe. Currently in second with three games left, Jeffrey's team are four points ahead of Irish Cup finalists Crusaders and five in front of Glenavon.

Should Ballymena win today and Crusaders and Glenavon lose, that ambition will be realised.

"We've overachieved but there is disappointment (the title race is over) because we went toe-to-toe with Linfield and showed we could compete with them," said Addis. "We still have second place to play for and we need to secure that for European football. We know a couple of wins in our last three games will achieve that."

Defensively suspect over the years, Ballymena have been stronger at the back this term employing a three-man defence with Addis crucial.

"It's worked for us. Ballymena have conceded quite a few goals in recent seasons but we have tightened up in that regard," said the defender. "We play an attacking formation and it has suited us. Teams have seen us playing it throughout the season but we have still secured good results.

"We have set the benchmark. We have beaten every team in the league and know we can compete with anybody. There will be expectation next season and we will have to deal with that."

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