Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine can do a Linfield and finish off double quest, says Burns

By Alex Mills

Midfielder Aaron Burns was a league and cup double winner with Linfield last season - and he's now on the brink of repeating the feat in the blue and white striped shirt of Coleraine.

It would be an astonishing achievement should the Bannsiders manage to finish the job. The class of 2018 are looking to bring the Gibson Cup back to the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds for the first time since 1974 - the club's one and only title win.

But it's far from a done deal. Oran Kearney takes his braves to Mourneview Park tomorrow to face Gary Hamilton's Glenavon, who are looking to nail down a third-place finish in the Danske Bank Premiership table.

They will also have a close eye on what develops up the M2 at the Ballymena Showgrounds, hoping that David Jeffrey's Ballymena United can derail Crusaders' title ambitions.

Should the top two both win, the Shore Road boys will be opening the champagne to celebrate their third title win in four years.

It would mean Coleraine's only chance of gleaning silverware in what has been an impressive season would rest on their Irish Cup final showdown with Cliftonville on May 5.

If it's a new experience for most of Kearney's young side, Burns has been there, done it and worn the t-shirt.

"It's a similar situation to what I was in last season at Linfield," said the 26-year-old. "We were going for the title on the final day at Cliftonville, and then faced Coleraine in the Irish Cup final the following week.

"Thankfully, it all worked out. Hopefully it will be the same this time. The boys have been flying and there is no reason why we can't finish the job.

"All we can do is pick up three points and hope for the best over at Ballymena - we have no control over that."

Burns, who joined the Bannsiders from Linfield in January, believes his new colleagues showed their true pedigree last week when coming back from what seemed like a totally hopeless situation to grab a draw against the Blues at Windsor Park.

"We were two goals down and no one would have given us a chance," he said. "I suppose we played with a few nerves in the first half. This (title challenge) is all new to a lot of the boys.

"But we knew if we could pull one goal back, we could get another and that's what happened.

"With a wee bit of luck, we could have won it- but at half-time we would have settled for a draw. There is a great spirit in this squad and the expectation levels are now sky high."

Although he hasn't managed to hold down a starting shirt since his move, Burns wouldn't have it any other way.

He added: "Leagues and cups are not won by teams, they are won by squads. No player has any given right to walk into any side - that has to be earned.

"We have a fantastic group of players that are now on the brink of something special. It's time to keep cool heads and play the games - not the occasions.

"The supporters have got behind us, giving us great backing. There were over 1,000 fans at Windsor last weekend - there is a great buzz about the town. It's now down to the final match for both ourselves and Crusaders.

"If we could get an early goal at Mourneview it would not only help us settle but the news would obviously quickly filter through to Ballymena - it will be a game of cat and mouse.

"For any team to go through a league campaign having suffered only one defeat like we have, going into the final match is fantastic - it's crazy. I've certainly never been involved in anything like that before.

"I really think that once this team get one trophy under their belt, there will be more to follow, there is no doubt about that."

Belfast Telegraph


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