Kofi Balmer admits he was the happiest man in the Northern Ireland Under-21 camp last week when his new club Larne sealed European football for the first time in their history.
The Inver Park outfit announced the arrival of the 20-year-old defender yesterday, following the expiry of his contract with Ballymena United.
Balmer was captaining the Under-21s in Scotland while his soon-to-be new team-mates clinched a place in the Europa Conference League with a 3-1 win over Cliftonville last weekend.
Despite getting some stick from his international colleagues, Balmer was in celebratory mood when he learned that he is likely to make his competitive debut for Tiernan Lynch’s side in Europe.
“On the way back from Scotland, I had the match on my phone while we were on the bus,” he revealed.
“I probably shouldn’t say it, but when Larne scored I was up on the bus cheering and the boys gave me a bit of stick.
“I had already made the decision to come to Larne, but knowing I had the chance to be in Europe with the club meant I was always going to support them in the Play-Off Final.”
Balmer — who still harbours ambitions of playing football in England or Scotland — says the opportunity of full-time football at Larne was just too good to turn down.
“The chance to be full-time in your own country is something you can’t say no to,” he said.
“Speaking to Tiernan, you realise that everything that happens here is top quality in terms of how the team train, work in the gym and look after their diet.
“Hearing that gives you a lot of confidence coming here. My ultimate ambition is to be able to play full-time across the water and it’s massive to be part of what’s going on here as I look to kick on.”
Balmer was also quick to pay tribute to former club Ballymena, where he has learnt his trade in the game under boss David Jeffrey since 2017.
“When I joined, I wasn’t the player I am now — I was developed well there,” he added.
“I had players to learn from like Jim Ervin, he’s a quality, quality defender, and having him behind me was really helpful.”