IRISH LEAGUE: Crusaders party after winning league title

Crusaders Colin Coates celebrates with the Gibson Cup
Crusaders Colin Coates celebrates with the Gibson Cup

The party lasted for quite some time on the Shore Road.

Stephen Baxter's Crusaders wrote themselves into the record books, so who could deprive them of their moment of glory?

They did what no other Crusaders team has managed to achieve, win back-to-back league titles.

When skipper Colin Coates raised the famous old trophy for the second successive season, there were scenes of raw emotion on the Shore Road.

It just wasn't any ordinary Danske Premiership fixture. Supporters began piling into the compact little arena over an hour before the kick-off.

Yes, the title already had been secured with the victory over rivals Cliftonville in midweek, but the Crues still had to go through the formalities of completing the programme.

Coleraine arrived with more hope than expectation. They graciously provided a guard of honour for skipper Colin Coates, his team mates and entourage of kiddies before the start.

And, when big Jordan Owens shot the champions into a 32nd minute lead, the fans sat back and awaited an avalanche. It failed to arrive.

In fact, Oran Kearney's team certainly deserved something for their efforts after Jamie McGonigle and James McLauglin both had rasping efforts crash back off the woodwork.

When referee Mervyn Smyth finally called time on a 90 minute yawn, the real action began. The Crusaders management, backroom staff and players were introduced individually before the big prize was handed over.

Skipper Coates held the trophy high. He insists that days like this could become a regular fixture.

“Stephen (Baxter) always regenerates the squad, but he never changes too many which is key,” he said.

“Maybe two or three players come in, rather than five or six. It’s never a major overhaul.

“He always makes quality additions and signs players he knows will improve the team and squad. I’m 30 now and I haven’t got as many years left as I would like but I’m hungry to win more.

“Football never stands still, so the manager always has to look to the future."

Michael Carvill didn't even get at kick on Saturday, but still picked up his fourth winners' medal.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s brilliant for everyone at the club and it’s great to see what it means to everyone at the club,” he said.

“When you move away from a club like Linfield you want to win medals. Stephen said to come here and I would win the league and that’s what we’ve done.”