IRISH LEAGUE: Ballymena boss buoyant after ‘tremendous’ transfer window

Kevin Braniff is welcomed to the club by manager David Jeffrey (left) and his backroom staff. Pic: ballymenaunitedfc.com

Kevin Braniff is welcomed to the club by manager David Jeffrey (left) and his backroom staff. Pic: ballymenaunitedfc.com

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Ballymena United have pulled off a ‘tremendous’ transfer window.

That’s the view of manager David Jeffrey after Kevin Braniff became his fourth January recruit.

Joe McKinney and goalkeeper Tim Allen had already joined the club while right-back Michael Kerr arrived on loan from champions Crusaders.

Allen’s arrival did result in Alan Blayney’s release from the Showgrounds but it was a month’s business that the boss was more than happy with.

“It’s a tremendous piece of work,” he said. “Brian McLaughlin and our chief scout Paul McAreavey deserve a lot of credit. It’s been a whole team effort. We’ve been working very hard over this last period.

“We needed at least one in. The one we really wanted was Joe McKinney because he can play up top, in the middle or out wide and he’s a really good player.”

That’s not to say Jeffrey is any less appreciative of his other captures.

The boss knows his latest signing is a potential match-winner, a characteristic embodied by his four goals for Glenavon in last season’s Irish Cup semi-final win over Crusaders.

“Kevin was on our radar for some time but when we were speaking with Gary Hamilton, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be practically possible,” said Jeffrey. “Kevin fits very well into our structure. He had to. He is very much buying into the journey and into our vision. We’ve told him where we want to get to and we want him to be a part of it.

“He’s exceptional on his day. People say about his age but anybody who watched him in the Irish Cup semi-final against Crusaders last year - gee whiz. He can play up front, in that number 10 role or in the middle of the park. He’s extremely strong and very intelligent. He’s got great ability and can win you a game out of nothing.”

Goalkeeper Allen, 24, joins for his second spell at the Showgrounds.

“Tim was a really unexpected bonus,” said Jeffrey. “He’s a bit rusty but he’ll get a couple of games for the reserves and that will get him up to speed.”

Loan signing Kerr, at just 18, will hope for his first top-flight appearance.

“It was Paul (McAreavey) who suggested Michael,” said Jeffrey. “We needed cover at right-back and Paul had watched reserve games. Paul Harbinson, who looks after our Under 20s, was able to feed in as well.

“I want to thank Stephen Baxter and Crusaders for allowing us to have Michael with us. Hopefully he will help us and we will help him. He gives us that balance in there.”