FOOTBALL: Harkin pinching himself after Rangers friendly

Rangers midfielder Niko Kranjcar holds off Ciaron Harkin during a recent friendly, in Scotland.
Rangers midfielder Niko Kranjcar holds off Ciaron Harkin during a recent friendly, in Scotland.
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Midfielder Ciaron Harkin admits he's still pinching himself since his move to Coleraine from Institute only a few months ago.

The 21-year-old signed for the Bannsiders in January and his whirlwind year continues to get better as, just last week, he played against Scottish giants Rangers in a behind closed door friendly in Glasgow.

Harkin, who helped Oran Kearney's men secure European football and played his part in their Irish Cup success which ended in defeat to Linfield in the final, was called into Ian Baraclough's Northern Ireland U21 squad only a few weeks ago.

"Being involved in the Northern Ireland U21 squad was unbelievable," he said.

"To be honest I wasn't expecting the call-up to, firstly, the training squad and then the squad for the Estonia game and the whole experience was great.

"I was disappointed not to get into the squad, but it was a good experience to be there and it's something I want to continue. Ian told me after the game that it won't be my last trip with the squad, so we have nine other games to go and hopefully I can get a cap and get a appearance under my belt.

"I think it was our second win in something like six years, so to be part of the squad was great. Yes I didn't make the match day squad but that means I'll be working harder to try and force my way into the squad in the future.

"Ian told me that with him doing the job full-time he'll be coming to games and hopefully he gets to a few of our games at Coleraine this season and I play well, so that I can get my chance."

The ex-Derry City starlet admitted last week's friendly against Rangers, where he came up against the likes of Kenny Miller and Niko Kranjcar, was another moment where he found he needed to pinch himself.

"Everything is just getting better and better, every week there's something else," he added.

"At the start when I signed for Coleraine we went on a good run, we played in the Irish Cup final and finished third to get us into Europe and then getting selected for the Northern Ireland U21 squad, before playing a friendly against Rangers.

"Then coming up we are playing in the Europa League against FK Haugesund and I have to say at times I think about pinching myself to see if this is real.

"The Rangers friendly was another great experience, yes it was three 30 minutes so there was a few changes, but the talent and the quality that they had was incredible and to play against players like Kenny Miller and Niko Kranjcar was something I never thought I would ever do; it was a pity about the result but it was all about the experience, which was unreal."