Belfast Telegraph

Suggestions I joined Larne for money are 'shallow', says Thomas Stewart

Thomas Stewart.
Thomas Stewart.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Thomas Stewart could find himself in another Irish Cup final this season. If you'd foretold that at the start of January, you'd be forgiven for assuming he had joined one of the Danske Bank Premiership's leading lights.

But the former Linfield and Derry City frontman, who won back-to-back doubles at Windsor Park, is at the head of Championship club Larne's drive for Irish Cup success.

Of course, the club's path to progress has been paved on Purple Bricks, backer Kenny Bruce's injection of funds allowing the club to sign players of Stewart's ilk.

Ahead of Saturday's cup semi-final against last year's beaten finalists Coleraine, Stewart has hit back at any hints that he and his fellow January signings David McDaid, Shane McEleney and the rest joined solely for the wage packets.

"It's a bit shallow to be honest," he told the BetMcLean Football Show on Cool FM. "Personally, it's a factor. Like every job, there are factors in picking a job. The money aspect comes into it but I've been a full-time footballer my whole career.

"Money comes into it but it's not the driving factor. I've won things all around and my big challenge now - I've said I want to win something with Larne. I'll take that pressure and hopefully we can do that."

Stewart joined the club at the end of the January window, having been expected to move back across the Atlantic, where he had played for Ottawa Fury before returning to sign for Dundalk.

"I spoke to a few teams as you do when you're out of contract," he said. "I was in America because I had spent some time out there but Kenny Bruce showed me his plans. He means business and it's good to be a part of it.

"The club were on their knees at the very start of the year and went on an incredible run of 15 games unbeaten. We're definitely ahead of ourselves. We've overachieved but we'll give it a good go.

"It was a good feeling for the whole team because we do mean business. At the start of the year, there were only 40 fans turning up, now there are over 1,000. That's good for the team, looking forward."

Larne take on Coleraine at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) while Cliftonville face Loughgall at the Oval in the other semi-final (kick-off 3pm).l

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