Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Lowry relishes challenge after making Coleraine return

By Graham Luney

Stephen Lowry says he's up for the challenge of breaking into the Coleraine side and helping the Bannsiders launch another title charge.

The midfielder turned down a two-year deal at Linfield to return to the Showgrounds.

It’s Coleraine manager Oran Kearney’s first significant transfer move after steering his side to Irish Cup success and a runner-up finish in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Lowry, who left the Bannsiders for Linfield in 2014, agreed a two-year deal yesterday.

“I had other offers but Coleraine have a fantastic young team and I know what Oran Kearney is like, he’s as straight and honest as they come and respected by everyone,” said the 31-year-old.

“Linfield offered me a two-year deal but this move feels right for me and it’s a football decision even though there are travel benefits as I live in Limavady. Coleraine have brilliant midfielders but throughout my career I’ve had to fight off competition for a first-team place and I’ll relish it. It was always like that at Linfield where top-class players were brought in.

“There are a lot of teams in the league who will fancy a crack at the title and after last season Coleraine will look to go one better than their runner-up finish.”

Lowry helped the Windsor Park side taste success in the Danske Bank Premiership, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield in 2017 but the wheels came off their trophy hunt last season.

“I really enjoyed my four years at Linfield and I won’t say a bad word about them, I had a good relationship with David (Healy) and made many friends,” he added. “But Linfield are looking to freshen for another title charge and it’s the right time for a change. It’s a big decision and a hard one but the timing is right for me.”

Kearney hailed his new arrival, telling the club’s website: “It is a fantastic coup for us.

“We feel that Stevie still has a huge, huge amount to give and that was evident when he came on against us earlier in the season at 2-0 down and Linfield managed to earn a draw.

“He is one of the best midfielders in the league, knows the club and is local, so that ticks all the boxes. Stevie’s experiences at Linfield will stand him in good stead and we are delighted to get him back on board. We had a great relationship when he was here and this signing raises the bar.”

Former Kilmarnock player Martin Smith has left the Bannsiders and, despite interest from Linfield, is expected to continue his career in England.

Blues boss David Healy, meanwhile, is looking to shuffle his pack and a move for his former international team-mate Ryan McGivern is expected.

McGivern, who agreed a short-term deal with Swindon Town in March until the end of the season, has been on Healy’s wishlist.

Portadown, meanwhile, have signed 19-year-old midfielder Liam McKenna from Warrenpoint Town.

Belfast Telegraph

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