IRISH League football returns as Coleraine host Ballymena United in the opening fixture of the new Sports Direct Premiership season (KO 7:45pm)…
Sports Direct Premiership
Coleraine start their Premiership campaign with a home clash against Ballymena United at The Showgrounds – with the match streamed by BBC Sport NI. The fixture could allow Oran Kearney to give competitive debuts to the likes of Darren Cole, Graham Kelly and David McDaid following their summer moves, with the club also waiting on international clearance for fellow arrivals Jake Wallace and Lee Harkin. The Stripes will certainly be without the services of Aaron Jarvis who serves the final game of a ban that was imposed last season.
It has been all change at Ballymena United since the two teams last squared off as Jim Ervin replaced David Jeffrey in the dugout for his first gig in management. The long serving Irish League defender had been at Carrick Rangers but the lure of managing in the top flight was too hard to turn down as he made the return to the Sky Blues. It has been a busy summer window for United as they have brought in Colin Coates (Cliftonville), Caleb Crawford (Crusaders), Alex Gawne (Coleraine), John McGuigan (unattached), Johnny McMurray (Warrenpoint Town), TJ Murray (Ards), Fiontan O’Boyle (Crumlin United), Donal Rocks (Cliftonville – loan), Fraser Taylor (St Mirren – loan) and Marc Walsh (Dungannon Swifts) so far.
Coleraine and Ballymena United met four times in all competitions last season as the Bannsiders were victorious in three of those contests.
The first clash was in the BetMcLean Cup as Conor McKendry’s late effort was the difference at the Ballymena Showgrounds. The Stripes had to dig deep for that victory as Matthew Shevlin saw a second-half penalty saved after Michael Place had been sent-off. The breakthrough finally arrived as Jamie Glackin squared for McKendry who netted from close range on a wet night at Warden Street.
However, United would get their own back as they registered a 2-1 victory in the Premiership ten days later. The Sky Blues would take a half-time lead as Place was in the right place at the right time to blast home from a free-kick. An onslaught from Coleraine would finally pay dividends as Shevlin equalised with 25 minutes on the clock. The game would turn on its head in the final ten minutes as Conor McDermott and Adam Mullan were both dismissed for two bookable offences and United would make their numerical advantage count as Redman planted a free-kick into the bottom corner in added time.
The annual Boxing Day derby would be held at the Coleraine Showgrounds and the hosts would make it a festive delight for the Bannsiders. Kearney could only watch on with glee as his troops were 2-0 up with 35 minutes played as McKendry’s cross inadvertently landed into the bottom corner before Shevlin blasted the ball into the net via the crossbar. The second-half was a more quiet affair as Gareth Deane denied David McDaid at one end, whilst Shevlin was denied a second at the other.
The final contest was in March as Coleraine were once again at home under the lights. With little over half an hour played, the hosts would take the lead on 31 minutes as Glackin picked up the ball inside the box and showed neat footwork before nestling a shot into the bottom corner. However, the lead would be quickly distinguished as the visitors equalised just three minutes later. A strong run forward by Robbie McVarnock allowed the ball to reach the path of Josh Kelly and the midfielder arrowed a strike beyond the reach of Deane. A ten minute spell would see a third goal of the evening just before half-time as Glackin was yet again involved. The midfielder would pick out McKendry inside the box and the ex-Larne man would do the rest by cheekily lobbing the ball over the advancing Jordan Williamson. On 54 minutes, Coleraine would stretch their lead with Glackin yet again influential. A passage of play involving Dean Jarvis and Shevlin allowed Glackin to cross the ball into the front post where Josh Carson was in the right place at the right time to find the back of the net.
“It’s exciting to be back,” Kearney said.
“When you throw a derby into it on a Friday night under the lights, it ticks all the boxes.
“If you can’t be up for that one then you really shouldn’t be in it.
“We feel we’re in a good place, there’s a good buzz and we are ready to start the real thing.”
The match referee will be Tony Clarke.
The assistant referees are John Doherty and Gavin Hegarty.
Keith Kennedy has been selected as the fourth official.
The match sponsor is William McNabb.
The Club 1927 Bar have kindly agreed to sponsor the match ball.
The mascots this evening are Mia, Jake and Oliver.
The Man of the Match award will be sponsored by Holley Optometrists.
Season tickets are valid for the fixture, although, non-season ticket holders will require matchday tickets for the fixture which can be bought online HERE.
Ballymena United fans will need tickets to enter the stadium which can be purchased HERE.
The Social Club will be open from 6pm – with drink promotions on offer until kick-off and then one hour after the full-time whistle.
Due to a large crowd expected at The Showgrounds, we encourage both sets of supporters to arrive at the ground in good time.
As ever, those unable to watch the fixture can follow the latest developments via the club’s official Twitter account (@ColeraineFC).