Stephen O’Flynn boosted by European performance for Crusaders

Crusaders' Stephen O'Flynn
Crusaders' Stephen O'Flynn

Bustling Stephen O’Flynn insists he is ready to play a part in Crusaders Danske Premiership title defence.

The former Institute striker was handed a rare starting slot in the Shore Road team’s Champions League clash against Albanian side KS Skenderbeu at Seaview on Tuesday night and he didn’t disappoint.

Although Stephen Baxter’s boys were eliminated, they still nicked a famous 3-2 victory against their full-time opponents, with O’Flynn bagging the opening goal.

However, Skenderbeu hit back with strikes from Bernard Berisha and Lindon Latifi before Matthew Snoddy and Andy Mitchell struck with an injury time with a double whammy.

“It was great to get a starting place and even better to get on the score sheet,” said the Cork-born 33-year-old. “At the end of last season, the team was flying. It was difficult for me to get into the side, my chances were limited

“As a senior professional, you’ve got to keep you head down and working hard.

“But from my four or five starts, I’ve managed to get three goals. However, I need to keep on working and keep on pushing. There is a long season ahead and we’ve a big squad. I’m sure all the players will be used.”

O’Flynn believes his team will benefit enormously from their European odyssey, which included a first round win over Estonian side Levadia Tallinn.

“It’s been great,” he added.

“The club has come a long way over the past 10 years, so hopefully, we can have moments like that again next year.

“We give a good account of ourselves in the two European games and it’s an achievement for the club to claim a Champions League win.

“The fans were great. They give us great backing. We knew it was going to be tough against Skenderbeu after the result in Albania and perhaps we just had too much to do on the night, but it was a typical gutsy Crusaders display.

“Every one of the boys played a part. But the higher up you go, every little mistake is punished and that’s what happened. We gifted them their goals.

“I thought we could have kept the ball better, especially when they went down to 10 men. But we showed great character and determination - everything you would expect from a Crusaders team.

“They thought it was all over when they scored. Yes, it did give us a mountain to climb, but our heads didn’t drop. We kept going to the final whistle and got our rewards right at the end,” he added.

“It was a well deserved win and was a credit to everyone at the club.”