Belfast Telegraph

I'd love to taste title glory with Ballymena, says Tony Kane

 

By Graham Luney

Ballymena United midfielder Tony Kane says he's dreaming of grasping a league winner's medal before he hangs up the boots.

At the age of 31, the former Blackburn Rovers man can look forward to many good times with the Braidmen, but there's no more glittering prize in domestic football than the Gibson Cup.

United have never won the league championship, but if anyone can crack that code it's the dynamic managerial duo of David Jeffrey and Bryan McLoughlin.

The legendary former Linfield maestros are now weaving their magic on Warden Street, and the early signs are promising this season as the Sky Blues have moved into third spot, seven points behind the Blues who have played a game more.

Of course, the league title was never Jeffrey's primary target this season as there has been a significant shake-up of the playing squad.

The goal was to take steps in the right direction and the club is doing just that.

As for the league title? That may not seem a realistic target but they can surely take inspiration from Coleraine's stunning run last season which caught many observers by surprise.

Jeffrey, of course, is a natural born winner and, together with McLoughlin, he would love to see the supporters dancing on the streets of Ballymena while drinking title-winning champagne.

Kane, who won a League Cup with Jeffrey and two County Antrim Shields while Glenn Ferguson was boss, accepts Rome wasn't built in a day and it takes time to assemble a squad capable of challenging for the title, but he's happy to see expectation levels rise a little.

"The targets and aims now are a lot different than a few years ago," admitted the set-piece magician.

"Now we are starting to get to Cup finals and hoping to finish high up the table.

"I'm 31 now and hope to gain another contract with Ballymena United in the future.

"An Irish Cup win would be brilliant, I'd retire happy. This club has the quality to return to the big stage. You have to dream big and I'd love to win the league with United.

"That would be very special. I think it's possible in the next few years. Certainly we could sustain a challenge. Each season we are making progress and both Davy and Bryan will have it in their sights.

"It's always hard to win a championship but David will bring top players to the club, young players who are hungry. I'm in my 30s and the young ones are keeping us on our toes.

"I'm not saying we will win the title but you have to dream and have that belief. It's a huge challenge and I have huge respect for squads who do get winner's medals."

For his part, Jeffrey will rightly dismiss all title talk. When asked about it recently he said: "Catch yourself on, nobody is getting carried away."

After impressive league wins over champions Crusaders and leaders Glenavon, United should be brimming with confidence as they head to Glentoran.

The Glens will be without midfielder John Herron for Saturday's game, whose appeal against his three-match ban for getting sent off against Glenavon was dismissed by the IFA Appeals Committee last night.

• LARNE'S County Antrim Shield semi-final against defending champions Crusaders has been switched from Inver Park to Seaview due to competition rules.

The draw saw Championship leaders Larne drawn out of the hat first, and originally the game was set for the Inver Reds' home ground, however the game has now been reversed.

Because of a tournament rule that says clubs without a Premiership licence cannot host games, the match had to be staged at Seaview as Larne do not currently possess the licence.

The rule, 11d, states that: "The first team drawn shall host the fixture provided they have a Premiership licence. If not, they shall forfeit home advantage."

Larne are the only non-Premiership team left in the competition, with Ballymena United facing Linfield in the other last four tie at the Showgrounds.

Belfast Telegraph

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