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Eoin Bradley: Coleraine are determined to lift Irish Cup after league heartache

 

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Eoin Bradley

Eoin Bradley

�INPHO/Jonathan Porter

Eoin Bradley

Having missed out on the Premiership title, Coleraine's talisman striker Eoin Bradley reckons an Irish Cup win would be ideal compensation - and a perfect way to end the season.

The Bannsiders had the rug pulled from under their Gibson Cup challenge due to the coronavirus outbreak when the campaign ended back in March.

David Healy's Linfield were awarded the trophy, while a ticket to European football was Oran Kearney's boys' consolation.

It meant that Coleraine were deprived of a possible triple trophy success. They already had the League Cup in the boardroom and had forged their way through to a Semi-Final showdown with rivals Ballymena United in the Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup.

At least they will have the opportunity of completing that piece of business at Windsor Park on July 27 when football returns - albeit behind closed doors.

"We were going really well then the League stopped, the title race had a real buzz about it," says Bradley.

"We had won the League Cup, had the Irish Cup Semi-Final looming and we were pushing Linfield.

"Who knows what would have happened if we had been able to complete the campaign, but we could still end the season on a high.

"We would have been favourites going into the Semi-Final if the tie had taken place a few months back. We were flying and Ballymena's form was ropey by their own high standards.

"But it's now 50-50 because neither team has been in action since March. After the lay-off, Ballymena will probably be the happier of the two teams.

"We have already secured our place in Europe. That was our aim from the start of the season. It would be good if we could now go on and finish the job by winning the Cup.

"But we'll be taking nothing for granted. This is a derby game, it will be tough going."

Bradley, known as Skinner to his team-mates, believes it will be a strange experience playing in front of the empty stands at Windsor Park .

"Even watching the first few games of the Premier League in England, the teams were off the pace a good deal," he adds. "It took them a few games to really get into their stride.

"It will be the same over here. We are training Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It's a matter of trying to get the legs going again in terms of match fitness.

"We don't have an awful lot of time to prepare for the Semi-Final. It's not ideal, but every team is in the same situation.

"No one could have predicted the situation we would be in because of the Covid-19 virus, so we've got to make the best of it.

"Apart from injury, it's the longest break I've had from football. I trained on my own and gave it everything for the first few weeks (of the lockdown) but, when I realised that this pandemic would last for a few months, I then eased up a bit.

"I did enough to keep myself in shape, but it was the football I missed.

"Over the next few weeks, we'll be stepping it up at the club and hopefully we can get a friendly game or two organised."

Belfast Telegraph