Belfast Telegraph

Harkin 'buzzing' after Coleraine's derby win and keen to bag Northern Ireland U21 debut

Ballymena United 0 Coleraine 2

By Billy Weir

Ciaron Harkin jetted off to Jersey this morning with the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad but high-flying is something he's getting pretty used to at Coleraine.

The Bannsiders moved four points clear of the chasing pack at the top of the table on Saturday with a clinical swatting away of derby foes Ballymena United and helped by their rivals all failing to keep on their tails.

Slips by Linfield and Glenavon mean Oran Kearney's side can enjoy the international break safe in the knowledge they can't be caught, along with the added boost of call-ups for Harkin and team-mate Jamie McGonigle.

McGonigle showed his class with a composed 57th minute strike to add to Stephen O'Donnell's opener at Warden Street as they notched up an eighth win from nine Premiership starts.

But it was Harkin, alongside the superb Brad Lyons, who pulled the strings in the middle of the park, and despite his choir boy looks and young years, there is a wise old footballing head on those 21-year-old shoulders.

"Everybody worked hard, it was a derby and everybody put that wee bit extra in to get the three points and keep the unbeaten record going and we're all buzzing," he said afterwards.

"Every game is the same, you're still looking for three points and personally I don't go in thinking 'oh, we're playing Ballymena, I want to beat them more than another team' you just keep the derby thing out of your head and go and win the game.

"I haven't lost many games with Coleraine so I don't know what it's like to go on those runs so I'm happy with how it's going at the minute."

As for the international call-up, he would love to feature in the European U21 qualifier against Estonia.

"I heard about it two weeks ago and I was buzzing because I missed out on the last one because I was in America and I'm looking forward to going there now with a bit of confidence after the win," he added.

"We're going to Jersey for a few days to play a friendly and I haven't made an appearance for them yet, so I hope to on this trip," he added.

Ballymena were badly off-colour, not helped by a crippling injury list but hurt more by self-inflicted defensive wounds and two contentious decisions by referee Andrew Davey to wave away two strong penalty shouts.

Annoyed as he was by his own side's generosity, David Jeffrey was quick to praise Kearney's side.

"Coleraine are flying, they're playing ever so well and you can't not praise how well Coleraine did and credit where credit is due, but in saying that the frustrating thing for us is that even though they were better than us on the day, we conceded two goals from free kicks which we shouldn't have given away," he said.

BALLYMENA UTD: Brennan, Burns, Ervin, Millar, Flynn, Gault, Kane, Thompson, Friel, McKinney (Faulkner, 71 mins), McCloskey (McCaffrey, 71 mins). Unused subs: Glendinning, McCullough, Loughran.

COLERAINE: Johns, Mullan, Traynor (Whiteside, 61 mins), Harkin, O'Donnell, Ogilby, McCauley, Lyons, McGonigle, Bradley (McCready, 81 mins), Parkhill. Unused subs: Douglas, McConaghie, Kirk.

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)

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