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Irish League talking points: Sensational Joel Cooper forces praise as Warrenpoint get off the bottom in style

 

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Joel Cooper scored twice against his former club Glenavon and even did enough to entice his manager to change tack.

Joel Cooper scored twice against his former club Glenavon and even did enough to entice his manager to change tack.

Joel Cooper scored twice against his former club Glenavon and even did enough to entice his manager to change tack.

It was another big afternoon of Irish League action on Saturday as Linfield got back to winning ways, Crusaders got the job done and Warrenpoint finally got off the bottom.

Here are the talking points from the Premiership's four 3pm kick-offs:

Linfield 8-1 Glenavon: Healy hails 'exceptional' Joel Cooper

Linfield manager David Healy has been known to play down the heroics of certain players at certain times.

It's no doubt all part of the man management that has helped the boss to get the best out of his charges across his four years in charge.

For example, see his reaction to Shayne Lavery's Europa League heroics during the summer.

After Lavery netted his first goal for the club and produced a MOTM display as the Blues beat Sutjeska at Windsor Park, Healy's muted reaction was to brand Lavery's sensational display 'okay'.

That tactic, however, was abandoned on Saturday evening when Healy was content to hail double goal-scorer Joel Cooper, who took his tally to 11 league goals this season.

"Joel was exceptional," said the boss. "He has got that talent where sometimes going past players looks easy but it's not. In my career, I probably never went past anybody. He has that knack and he's a joy to work with. He wants to learn, wants to get better but he was exceptional."

Crusaders 2-0 Ballymena United: Ger Doherty saluted for season-defining save

If Crusaders go on to win the Danske Bank Premiership season, there will be a few moments look back on as pivotal.

Including in those, no doubt, will be Gerard Doherty's save from Andy McGrory midway through the second half on Saturday at Seaview.

With the score at 0-0, Doherty tipped McGrory's shot from the edge of the area onto the upright, paving the way for Declan Caddell and Ross Clarke to win the game.

"The big moment came when Gerard made that save," says Philip Lowry, grateful his early missed 'sitter' didn't prove costly.

"That's what you need in sticky games like this when things aren't going your way in the middle of a title race. We've been steamrollering teams of late but in games like this, you need men to stand up and it was a top save. I don't know how he got it onto the post. Then two moments of quality got us the goals."

Dungannon Swifts 2-0 Institute: Swifts' makeshift back four comes up trumps again

Dungannon Swifts have now kept two Premiership clean sheets in a row for the first time in almost two years.

The first, against Linfield at Windsor Park last week, arrived with three midfielders and a teenager making up a back four in front of 16-year-old stopper Conor Byrne.

Seven days later and there was only one standard defender brought in, Dylan King returning from injury to partner captain Dougie Wilson at centre-half.

Any makeshift back line, same result with a shut-out in a crucial 2-0 win that saw the Swifts pull six clear of the bottom two.

Who needs proper defenders eh?

Actually, considering the centre-back pairing of King and Wilson got the goals....who needs strikers?

Carrick Rangers 1-2 Warrenpoint Town: Point exit bottom spot in style

It's unlikely that Barry Gray's team-talk pre-game mentioned 'doing a Cliftonville' but, if it had been the plan, his side carried it out to perfection at Carrick Rangers.

The hosts were leading until the third minute of injury-time, when when Alan O'Sullivan levelled from the spot before new signing Ryan Swan scored the winner with his first goal for the club.

It was all more than a little reminiscent of Cliftonville's last gasp County Antrim Shield win during the week.

It's a result that, for the first time this season, take Point off the bottom, one point above Institute who had lost to Dungannon Swifts.

"That's fantastic for the players because that's what they look at," said Gray. "It's a massive mentality change for us and we'll enjoy that. We'll hold that position for a couple of weeks with the Irish Cup games next week and the challenge for the players is now to stay there.

"It's one of our better performances of the season so we were wondering what more we could do? We just believed we could play through it. It feels like a double win and it's a win we deserved."

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