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I'm proud of what my former players are achieving at Coleraine: David Jeffrey

 

By Alex Mills

Big-hearted Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey has doffed his cap in the direction of Oran Kearney, insisting Coleraine can take their Danske Bank Premiership title challenge to the wire.

Even though the Sky Blues travel to the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds tomorrow for what should be another tense big derby affair, Jeffrey admits the end-of-season Euro play-offs are uppermost on his mind.

United can't improve on their sixth position in the league table, but they can still have a big say where the Gibson Cup takes up residence.

However, Jeffrey said his big concern is nursing some of his injured players back to fitness, rather than trying to spoil the Bannsiders' title party.

"There will be those who say Ballymena can go and pull the rug from under Coleraine's challenge - throw a spanner in the works or anything else like that," said Jeffrey.

"If anyone thinks that will be our motivation for this game, they'll have another thing coming.

"Oran Kearney and William Murphy are former players of mine, along with Steven Douglas, who is also up at Coleraine. I can honestly say that Bryan McLoughlin is delighted at what they are achieving.

"Three years ago, they were in the bottom six in the league table. So, what they have done has to be acknowledged.

"Bryan and I are extremely proud of what they are achieving. It would be wrong to use their charge to the top of the table as motivation for us - that's total rubbish.

"And, it's not the case of us trying to spoil someone's party. If we to go to Coleraine with that attitude, we'll fall flat on our faces.

"Last year we played Crusaders in the penultimate match but didn't use the 'let's spoil their party' scenario as motivation.

"We were on a good run which took us to fourth place in the league and we just wanted to keep it going - we were desperate to get that fourth place.

"I'm going (to Coleraine) thinking only about Ballymena United. Thinking can I get more minutes out of McAlorum, Burns, Faulkner and McCloskey. That's where we are at, trying to get players fit again.

"Whatever Coleraine are doing is no concern to us. We will be going there with one thing in mind, to win the game, regardless of the opposition - there will be no hidden agenda.

"We need as many players fit and available and in good nick for when it comes to the European play-offs."

Jeffrey confirmed that defender Kyle Owens will be leaving the club at the end of the season, having agreed a pre-contract with Crusaders.

He added: "We respect Kyle's decision and wish him well. He has committed to doing his best for Ballymena until the end of the season.

"We've three league games before the play-offs, starting at Coleraine.

"It's important we now get as many players back from injury. Gary Thompson and Jonathan McMurray will play no further part, both requiring surgery.

"But it was a bonus to get Stephen McAlorum and Andrew Burns back last week against Linfield. And we'll have Cathair Friel back this week from suspension. He was foolishly sent off against Cliftonville but that was dealt with privately.

"In spite of all the problems, it's good to have the European play-off to look forward to. We know it will be difficult, we are going to be away from home. It's where we wanted to be, battling it out with the top six. We have given ourselves a wee chance."

Owens started his career at Crusaders and has played for Carrick Rangers (loan) and Dundela.

"There has been lots of speculation around Kyle and so it's important that the facts are right at the start," Jeffrey said.

"Crusaders formally informed us that they wished to speak to Kyle and he informed us on Tuesday evening that he was meeting on Wednesday night to sign a contract for next season. We respect Kyle's decision."

Coleraine vs Ballymena Utd

Danske Bank Premiership:

Coleraine Showgrounds, Saturday, 3.00pm

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