It’s been a whirlwind last few months for Ciaron Harkin.
This time last year the 21-year-old was preparing for a promotion play-off with Institute just days after picking up the Intermediate Cup with the north west side at Windsor Park.
Fast forward 12 months and the Creggan man is preparing for the biggest game of his life.
“This time last year I was playing in the Intermediate Cup final with ‘Stute,” said Harkin.
“We won that at Windsor Park against Ards, so that was a happy memory. But to lose out on the play-off was a real blow for us.
“This is on a completely different level though, the build up and everything that goes with it is so much bigger. It’s another experience and one which I ‘m looking forward to.
“My first game was against Tobermore United in the cup, and even that day there was a great buzz about the place because it was the Irish Cup.
“I had only ever played one Irish Cup game before that, it was for Institute against Sport & Leisure in an early round and we were beat in extra time.
“That wasn’t a big occasion, but this year it has just got bigger and bigger from the Tobermore game, to Ballymena and then the semi final against Glenavon.
“The semi final was massive, but I know the final will be ten times bigger and I can’t wait.
“Everyone is buzzing and the whole town is just caught up in it all, there’s flags everywhere and there’s so much stuff on social media.
“It has given us a real boost to see so many people getting behind us.
“It all comes down to the day now when we have to step up and give a bit back to them.”
Harkin’s arrival at The Showgrounds in January coincided with the Bannsiders incredible 17-match unbeaten run.
In fact it was mid-March before he dropped points in a Coleraine shirt, and he has only lost two games to date!
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my Coleraine career,” he said
“I came in at a good time. They were on a bad run in December, but then it quickly turned around and I didn’t think we were ever going to lose.
“I had won every game I played in up until the middle of March when we drew with Ballymena, and I’ve only lost two games, so it has been brilliant since I’ve come here.
“Having a few other Derry lads at the club really helped me settle in straight away and I was just able to concentrate on my football.
“I’m only learning to drive now so at the start I was worried about getting up and down to Coleraine, but there’s always someone heading up and it was a great way to get to know everyone.
“Everyone just welcomed me into the club straight away.”
Harkin played his first game against Linfield in the recent 5-1 defeat at The Showgrounds. it was a baptism of fire for the young midfielder that day, but he was quick to point out it certainly hasn’t left any lasting effects
“I had never played against Jamie Mulgrew or Stevie Lowry until that recent game at The Showgrounds,” he said.
“It wasn’t a great day, but I don’t think about it any more.
“They are good players, no doubt, but this is just another match and we didn’t go on that unbeaten run for nothing, we are a good team.
“We’ve had a good record against Linfield in the league so far this season, we just need another performance like we did earlier in the season.
“Yes they have won the league, but they are not invincible, anyone can be beaten.”