A day to remember for ex-Bannsiders

COLERAINE had three special guests in attendance on Saturday to witness the win over Linfield…

By: Michael Anderson

Former fan favourites Derek Cook, Stuart McLean and Greg O’Dowd were back at the Showgrounds.

Derek was last over for the Irish Cup final in 2018.

But for Stuart and Greg, it was their first time taking in a game since they ended their playing days in the mid 90’s.

The trio were thrilled to be invited as guests of the club and thoroughly enjoyed their day.

Greg endured a three and a half hour drive from Kildare to attend (along with wife Martina and children Ben and Sophie) while Stuart (Glasgow) and Derek (Gatwick) also had early morning starts.

“Totally worth it. The hospitality showed to us was different level,’ said Greg.

“The changes that have been made and are planned for the future are brilliant.

“Everything is so much more professional.

“I played for a lot of clubs in the League of Ireland but the only club I’ve ever felt a proper affiliation to is Coleraine.

“I used to take a half day off work to drive up for a midweek game and maybe not home again until 3 in the morning but it was worth it.”

Ex striker Cook, leading goalscorer in his two seasons at the club, echoed those sentiments.

“I can’t thank the people that organised this enough,” said Cookie.

“From start to finish it was just a fantastic day.

“Everything went perfectly and I did say when I landed into Aldergrove that Coleraine would win!”

Fellow Scot McLean relished seeing some familiar faces from the past including Felix Healy.

“I was thrilled when I heard Felix would be at the game,” said Stuart. “He was different class as a manager.

“Honestly the day far exceeded any expectations I had beforehand.

“Driving down the Ballycastle Road again after all these years felt both strange and emotional.”

Supporters from both Coleraine and Linfield gave the players a terrific ovation beforehand.

And the good news is they enjoyed their matchday experience so much that they have vowed to return sooner rather than later.

“The guys had a terrific time and were really impressed with the hospitality they received,” said Commercial Manager Clement Dealey.

“We have invited them back to attend the League Cup final in March and hopefully they can all make it.”