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Crusaders bid for Coleraine striker rejected as Baxter ponders forward options

By Steven Beacom

Coleraine have rejected a bid from Crusaders for striker Jamie McGonigle.

The Crues are looking at forward options due to the hamstring injury sustained by Jordan Owens in the Champions League clash with Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets earlier this month.

Owens, the club's record goalscorer, is out for several weeks and will miss the start of his side's defence of the Premiership title. It is a major concern for the Seaview men with Owens one of the most influential players in Stephen Baxter's squad.

Baxter is an admirer of Bannsiders front man McGonigle and that led to conversations between the Crues and Coleraine.

It is understood that Coleraine informed the player of the interest from the champions and told him they did not wish to sell.

When the Crues came in with a formal bid for the 22-year-old, who played a key role in Coleraine's title challenge and Irish Cup success last season, Bannsiders chairman Colin McKendry discussed the situation with manager Oran Kearney and the rest of the board and they opted to turn down the offer.

The clear message from Coleraine is that they are determined to keep their best players and build on what they have achieved over the past 18 months.

Whether or not the Crues return with a new bid for the Northern Ireland Under-21 ace, on the shortlist for last season's Ulster Footballer of the Year award, remains to be seen.

It is believed Crusaders have other irons in the fire with strikers in the Irish League and want to fill the void left by the Owens injury before the start of the domestic season next weekend.

The Crues have to start their campaign two days after the Danske Bank Premiership officially kicks off on August 4 due to their Europa League commitments. Baxter's men will get under way on Monday, August 6 at home to Ards at 7.45pm.

Meanwhile, Cliftonville legend George McMullan has indicated he's coming out of retirement to play for Crewe United.

Midfielder McMullan earned legendary status at Solitude, celebrating back to back league titles as the club's inspirational skipper.

"I'm looking forward to getting back it," said McMullan.      

Belfast Telegraph

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