IRISH CUP: Midfielder Harkin loving life mixing it with the big boys
A fans' favourite at Institute, midfielder Ciaron Harkin can't wait for Saturday's Tennent's Irish Cup Final, against Linfield.
The 21-year-old - whose nickname ‘Jackie’ came about because, when he was growing up, he supposedly said he was the ‘greatest fighter in Creggan’, comparing himself to ‘Jackie Chan’ - wants to finish his dream first season in the Premiership with Coleraine with a winners’ medal.
“If we win the Irish Cup it definitely would be the best moment in my football career” he insisted.
“All my family are making the trip to Belfast, there’s buses going from Derry, so it will be a big day, not just for myself but for all my family.
“There will be a bit of pressure on me because of that, but it will be a good day out for everyone and I’m looking forward to it.”
Only last month David Healy’s side hammered Coleraine at the Showgrounds, but Harkin believes that result won’t matter this weekend.
“We had a bad result against them a few weeks ago, but that really doesn’t matter,” he said.
“Yes 5-1 doesn’t look good, but that won’t be the way the final is going to be.
“Everyone is just looking to the final and if you take out the 5-1 defeat, we have had a good record against Linfield this season, so we know what we can do against them and we know what way we are going to play against them.”
The midfielder nearly missed his chance of joining the Bannsiders after he re-signed for ’Stute, at the start of the season, but the minute Oran Kearney came back for a second time, his mind was made up.
“That just showed how much the man wanted me,” he stated.
“He obviously liked me as a player and it’s good to have that in the head as well that the manager wants you and likes you as a player, so I just decided to go.
“I knew where I wanted to be and that was the Premiership; I wanted to play at the highest level, that’s where you want to be playing week in, week out, against all the big teams.
“I had a chance to go to Coleraine in the summer but I decided to stay at Institute, as we really wanted to try and win the league and get promotion, but then it wasn’t looking like we were going to win the league, so as soon as I got a second chance to sign for Coleraine I was never going to turn it down.”
Harkin, who really has only had two full seasons in senior football, conceded playing and beating the likes of Crusaders at Seaview in the League Cup with Kevin Deery’s men in 2015, meant he wanted more top flight football on a regular basis.
“Having the taste of it playing at Crusaders in the League Cup with Institute, then playing Warrenpoint and Ballinamallard in the playoff, they were the hardest games to play in and they had the most build up to them and every game has been like that every week with Coleraine.
“When I signed for Coleraine we were fifth now the season has ended and we’ve finished third and are in Europe, so I couldn’t have asked for anything more. But the Irish Cup Final is a game you want to be playing in, you want that pressure that’s what football is about.
“There’s no point playing football if the games don’t mean anything, these are the matches that you want to be playing in.
“European football for next season, that was the one thing we were looking to make sure was secured before going into the cup final and not relying on having to win the cup final to get into Europe. So, we had a great end to the season finishing third and looking forward to the final and then Europa League football next season.”
The Creggan man was part of a successful Derry City youth set-up which has seen the likes of Ronan Curtis, Ryan Curran, Ben Doherty, Joshua Daniels, Aaron Harkin, Rory Holden and Nathan Boyle all playing senior football.
However, while he wanted to dawn the Candystripes jersey, he knew himself leaving his home town club and moving to Drumahoe was the right move for his career.
“I was young when I went to Derry, I was 16 and I started playing in their U17 side for a year and then I broke into the Reserve team and we also had an U19 team and I had a season with them and also trained with the first team,” he added.
“That U19 side was a good team and training with the first team was good, obviously my aim was to try and get into the first team but it just came to the stage I felt it was the right time for me to get out and get more senior games under my belt and I made the choice to go to Institute.
“That move did me no harm at all, in fact it was a great decision because playing well there got me this move to Coleraine, which means I’m progression again as I’m now playing in the Premiership and have had a lot of big games already.”