COLERAINE midfielder Ciaron Harkin speaks to colerainefc.com about the Europa League draw, being called-up for Northern Ireland U21 duty and the upcoming friendly against Derry City…
Ciaron Harkin has challenged his team-mates to make a ‘good go of it’ as they enter European competition for the first time since 2004.
The Bannsiders were drawn to face FK Haugesund in the first qualifying round and despite the Norwegian side being at home first, Harkin wants the Stripes to keep it tight for the return leg at The Showgrounds.
“Qualifying for Europe was a tremendous achievement last season and now want to make a good go of it,” Harkin said.
“Once the draw was separated into different groups, I wanted to avoid Midtjylland and would have taken the other four teams.
“With the away game first and both sides not knowing each other, it makes for an unpredictable game. It is vital we keep it tight over in Norway and hope to take advantage of playing the second leg at home.
“I was buzzing all weekend to see who we were getting and never expected to be playing in Europe when I joined the club.
“It doesn’t seem like the good times will ever stop and hopefully we will do our best to get through to the next round.”
Harkin – who agreed a switch to the Bannsiders in January 2017 – believes the squad at The Showgrounds should aim for much of the same next season.
“I arrived at the club at a good time as we started to win a lot of games and reached the Irish Cup final,” Harkin added.
“We should be aiming for a repeat of that next season, if not better. I don’t think we are expected to win the league, but we should aim to get closer to the top two sides.
“If we can do that, then in a couple of years we will be competing with Crusaders and Linfield at the top of the table and making cup finals will hopefully become more frequent.”
The tireless midfielder was called-up to the Northern Ireland U21 squad alongside striker Jamie McGonigle for the recent European qualifier against Estonia.
Despite not making Iain Baraclough’s match day squad, Harkin believes the experience will stand him in good stead for his career.
“It was great to be called up for Northern Ireland and to train with different players.
“Having Jamie alongside me helped and whilst I was disappointed to not have played a part in the match, I was happy that we won and I hope to be involved again.
“It capped off a terrific season for myself and it gave me a taste of international football.”
Next up for the Bannsiders is a home clash this Saturday against Derry City (KO 2pm). Following this, Oran Kearney’s men will prepare for the double header against FK Haugesund and Harkin is looking forward to it, as well as praising the impact of the new arrivals at The Showgrounds.
“I am looking forward to getting some game time, before we head off to play in Europe.
“These type of games help a player feel ready for the upcoming season and I feel ready for the challenges ahead.
“The new signings have settled in well and everybody has made them feel welcome.
“They are ready to win games and that can only be a good thing.”