IRISH LEAGUE: Healy hails Linfield players

Andrew Waterworth celebrates his second goal at the Coleraine Showgrounds. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
Andrew Waterworth celebrates his second goal at the Coleraine Showgrounds. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

The Linfield juggernaut looks to be hitting top gear at just the right time as they surged to the top of the league on Saturday.

A seventh win in a row saw the Blues leapfrog Crusaders at the summit with one game left to go.

Aaron Burns, who scored two on Saturday, celebrates with Stevie Lowry. 

Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

Aaron Burns, who scored two on Saturday, celebrates with Stevie Lowry. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

It has been a remarkable run by David Healy’s side. At one stage it looked inevitable the Crues would make it a hat-trick of title wins.

Slowly but surely though Linfield started chipping away at the deficit, and Healy’s pride in his players was evident for all to see following Saturday’s five star showing at Coleraine.

“I’m immensely proud of the players because we have hunted and hunted this down,” he said.

“A lot of people had written us off earlier in the season saying we probably weren’t good enough, but we have given ourselves a chance next week.

“That’s all we could do and that’s all I asked of the players.

“I said to the players before the game that no matter what happened today take it to next week.

“It was important we gave ourselves a chance because you never know what can happen in football, but the players did a bit more than that today.

“The league was over for us going into the last two or three games last season so it’s fantastic to be in this position now.

“This is why you play football, this is why I wanted to coach and manage.

“Is it edgy? 100 per cent.

“Sometimes you don’t enjoy it because it eats at you and you want it so bad, but it’s great.”

The Bannsiders were the last team to beat the Blues way back at the start of January, so many predicted a tough day at the office for Healy’s men on Saturday.

And it looked like it was going to turn out that way when James McLaughlin headed the hosts in front at the start of the second half.

But Linfield produced a fantastic response as Aaron Burns and Andrew Waterworth grabbed a brace each with Paul Smyth scoring the other.

“I’m very pleased with the win,” said Healy.

“I certainly wasn’t envisaging it being as easy as it ended up today. Coleraine are a really good side and when you go one down after missing so many chances you start to think that it’s maybe not going to be your day.

“But fair play to the players they certainly produced a terrific 35 minute performance, and without being disrespectful to Coleraine I thought we were deserved winners today.

“We have given ourselves a small chance of winning the league next week.”

Will things change though now the Blues are on top as the hunters become the hunted?

Not according to Healy.

“Next week will be telling because it’s a Belfast derby and I sure Cliftonville won’t want Linfield winning the league title on their own patch,” he said.

“It’s a big game, it’s one we should look forward to and relish, I can’t wait.

“As I’ve been saying for weeks now we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

“It doesn’t matter that we are top of the league now the message will stay the same.”

In the midst of all the elation from the visitors it was easy to forget Coleraine secured European football for the first time in over a decade.

Oran Kearney admitted the it would probably take a couple of days before the scale of what his side have achieved really sinks in.

“We are not exactly in party mode at this moment in time, but probably over the next couple of days when you take stock of the season and the 37 games to have secured third place is a phenomenal achievement for the players and the club.

“In due course we’ll take that on board and be rightfully delighted with it.”