Coleraine's Eoin Bradley knows Irish League title race is 'dog-eat-dog' affair

Coleraine's Alexander Gawne celebrates scoring the later winner in Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership game against Carrick Rangers at the Showgrounds Picture by Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker
Pádraig Ó Meiscill

Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine 3 Carrick Rangers 2

IF COLERAINE are feeling the heat of what is shaping up to be the tightest Danske Bank Premiership title fight in years, then Eoin Bradley is certainly adept at hiding it.

The veteran striker came off the bench at the Showgrounds on Saturday as the Bannsiders twice came from behind against Carrick Rangers to recapture top spot in the Irish League, if only on goal difference.

After their defeat to basement club Warrenpoint, it was vital that Oran Kearney’s men returned to winning ways, and they did so despite a couple of scares. Lloyd Anderson put Carrick in front early on before James McLaughlin levelled for the home side.

If Coleraine thought normal service had been resumed from there, they got a rude awakening when north American striker Sachem put Carrick back in front. When Coleraine were awarded a penalty for a Willie Faulkner foul on Jamie Glackin, Ben Doherty converted twice after he was ordered to retake the penalty by referee Tim Marshall.

The scene was set for late drama and Alexander Gawne provided it when he netted an 86th minute winner.

“We went behind twice and they had to bring me on to change the game. I told them that after the game,” said a light-hearted Bradley yesterday.

“Yesterday, it wasn’t that I was dropped, but I didn’t play and whenever I’m not playing, I’m not happy. But I’m 35 years-of-age and I’m not going to play every game, but Oran explains everything to me, he’s a good friend of mine. He’ll always aim to benefit me and the team, not himself.

“Yesterday, we showed a wee bit of balls and a wee bit of togetherness and that’s what matters.”

With Linfield losing at Glenavon on Friday and Cliftonville dropping points at Inver Park on Saturday, this season’s campaign has had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quality to it, and Bradley is loving every minute.

“Look, you see this year in the Irish League, it’s gonna be dog-eat-dog,” the south Derry man added.

“There’s going to be teams dropping points – Cliftonville dropped points yesterday, we’ve a real tough December fixture list, we’ll probably drop points, there’ll be a pile of teams drop points.

“Linfield, Crusaders, ourselves, Cliftonville, you’re fighting for points, but sure we’re enjoying it and that’s all that matters.

“Oran said after the game that this was our biggest three points, probably bigger than beating Crusaders and Linfield. It gives you belief, we dug into the end. Wee Alex Gawne, one of the nicest fellas you’ll ever meet, he’s had a tough time, he scored the winner and it was great for him as a local lad. Next week, we play Institute, we’ll get the same thing, you have to keep on ticking them off.

“Oran alluded to it there in one of our team talks, I’d say this year will be the lowest number of points ever wins the Irish League, ever.”

As for Coleraine’s latest signing, former Antrim Gaelic football star Matt Fitzpatrick, Bradley can’t wait to get playing with him.

“I told Oran the other night, ‘I’ve started a trend, we’ve a better Gaelic team now than we have a soccer team’. I might not even get on the Gaelic team now, never mind the soccer team,” Bradley joked.

“I’ve heard very good reports about Matt and I’m looking forward to working with him. I hear he’s brilliant at holding up the ball, strong in midfield, centre-forward and, I tell you what, he’s going to add to the panel.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, a Joe Gormley strike secured a point for Cliftonville at Larne after a Gary Breen own-goal had put the hosts in front. Crusaders won 1-0 at Warrenpoint thanks to a Jordan Owens goal while Ballymena drew 1-1 with Institute and Glentoran hammered Dungannon 6-1.

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