IRISH CUP: Coleraine striker McLaughlin can't wait for dream final
Coleraine striker James McLaughlin admitted he didn't even see his winner hit the back of the net, as he was away celebrating.
The super sub nodded home from close range to spark wild celebrations amongst the Bannsiders.
“I don’t even think I saw the ball hit the back of the net,” he said.
“I was over celebrating with the fans almost as soon as I headed it.
“It was one of those ones that I knew I got good contact on it and it was going in.”
The 27-year-old, who burst into the box the minute fellow striker Eoin Bradley raced clear down the right wing, was over the moon to be in the right place to head home the goal which knocked out holders Glenavon.
“When I saw Skinner go down the line I knew he would put in a good ball given the quality he has, luckily he hit me on the head with it,” stated the modest centre-forward.
“It’s a dream for me to be playing in an Irish Cup final, these are the days you hope for when you join a club like Coleraine.
“Coming from Coleraine too makes it even more special.
“Glenavon were the only team I hadn’t scored against. My brother-in-law reminded me about that the other day. There was no better way to put that right.”
As for McLaughlin’s team-mate Ciaron Harkin he too can’t wait for next month’s final against Linfield, at Windsor Park, a stadium which brings back good memories for the talented midfielder.
“It wasn’t a bad night the last time I played at Windsor,” he stated.
“The Intermediate Cup Final, we beat Ards 3-1 and that was probably the best night of my career so far, but now the Irish Cup Final, if we can get a result in that, it will probably better that because it’s a high standard and better cup.”
The 21-year-old has been on a remarkable run with the Bannsiders since his move from Drumahoe.
In fact Harkin hasn’t had a defeat while playing in the Coleraine jersey, he has played Oran Kearney’s side unbeaten 15 match run - winning 13 games and drawing two.
“I came in three months ago and I haven’t lost a match, so hopefully we can keep it going for the rest of the season. Win our last five league games and then win the Irish Cup Final I can’t complain then,” he joked.
“When I first started talk to Oran about signing, they were at the end of a run of six matches in a row without a win, before I even signed they had three wins in a row and now we have 15 matches in a row that we haven’t lost a game.”
The former Institute man along with fellow young players Brad Lyons, Lyndon Kane, Jamie McMonigle, Adam Mullan and Christopher Johns have stolen somewhat of the lime-light, but Harkin believes the whole Coleraine squad are playing their part in the recent success.
“The atmosphere amongst the squad is brilliant,” added Harkin.
“When I was at Institute everyone was tight, but when I came here I just gelled in straight away and even the fans sticks with us.
“There are more fans here than at ’Stute and it’s great that they too stick together with the team, hopefully everyone continues to stick together and that we continue our run for the rest of the season.”
Harkin was thrilled after their last-minute semi-final win over Glenavon and already can’t wait for the blue-ribbon final.
“I’m absolutely buzzing, we know we’ll have a big support making the trip to Windsor for the final, we know that Linfield will also have a big support as well, but for us it’s just another game and hopefully another win.”