Coleraine 2
Ballymena United 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


2 - 1

Ballymena United

League (NIFL Premiership)
Friday, August 4th, 2023
Coleraine Showgrounds
Attendance: 3,479
7:45 PM Kick-off

Matthew Shevlin (23)
Matthew Shevlin (61)
Colin Coates (12)

Team Managers
Oran Kearney Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
1. Gareth Deane
3. Dean Jarvis
5. Graham Kelly
7. Conor McKendry
8. Stephen Lowry
9. Matthew Shevlin
10. David McDaid
15. Stephen O'Donnell
16. Lee Lynch
17. Jamie Glackin
29. Andrew Scott
Sean O'Neill .1
Steven McCullough .11
Colin Coates .6
Scot Whiteside .5
Sean Graham .8
Michael Place .30
Andrew McGrory .17
John McGuigan .14
Ryan Waide .10
Alex Gawne .7
Jonathan McMurray .27

12. Martin Gallagher
2. Lyndon Kane
14. Kieran Farren
20. Darren Cole
21. Jack O'Mahony
22. Andrew Mitchell
33. Luca Doherty
Sam Johnston .26
TJ Murray .20
Marc Walsh .19
Jordan Gibson .18
Kym Nelson .2
Lewis Tennant .21
Fiontan O'Boyle .15

Lyndon Kane for David McDaid (79)
Andrew Mitchell for Matthew Shevlin (79)
Marc Walsh for Alex Gawne (17)
Kym Nelson for Andrew McGrory (71)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Marc Walsh (79)
TJ Murray for John McGuigan (86)

Stephen O'Donnell (11)
Stephen Lowry (25)
Dean Jarvis (80)
Lyndon Kane (87)
Alex Gawne (3)
Jonathan McMurray (11)
Michael Place (24)
Sean O'Neill (43)
Colin Coates (45)
Sean Graham (45)
Steven McCullough (75)
Scot Whiteside (90)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Tony Clarke (Referee)
John Doherty & Gavin Hegarty (Assistants)
Keith Kennedy (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Ballymena United got a new era underway with a 2-1 defeat in the A26 derby with Coleraine to open the 2023/24 Sports Direct Premiership season at the Coleraine Showgrounds on Friday night.

In Jim Ervin's first starting XI in league management, there were starts for four of the new boys as Johnny McMurray, Alex Gawne, John McGuigan and new club captain Colin Coates all got the nod.

It was quite a game to kick-start the season in terms of cards, and it took just three minutes for the first of twelve yellow cards when Gawne was booked. A second came the way of McMurray twelve minutes in for his reaction to a foul, but from the resulting free kick, United made the perfect start with the league's opening goal. Steven McCullough's deep cross picked out Colin Coates at the back post, and the skipper guided a header beautifully into the far corner for his first in Sky Blue at the far end of the ground from a large travelling support.

United maintained their good start as McMurray called Gareth Deane into action with a first time shot, before Ballymena were dealt an early injury blow as Gawne was forced off, to be replaced by Marc Walsh.

The Bannsiders were slowly working their way into the game towards the middle of the half, but after McGuigan threw himself in front of a Conor McKendry shot to put it over, Coleraine levelled from a quick corner. Ballymena were caught sleeping from the sharp set piece and after McKendry mishit his shot, it fell to Matthew Shevlin who converted into the roof of the net at close range.

Ervin's men almost hit back straight away from another set piece, when this time McCullough had a go himself and his free kick was heading for the bottom corner, only for a terrific late save from Deane. In the final five minutes the away side had to soak up a considerable amount of home pressure as they looked to keep things level going into the break, and they also picked up another four bookings, plus one for the gaffer, with referee Tony Clarke certainly not shy in going to his book, but the closest Coleraine came was a header over by Stephen O'Donnell.

From early on in the second half it was clear Coleraine would be orchestrating most of the half, and in particular McKendry who was giving the Sky Blues all sorts of problems, and after he followed Lee Lynch in firing over from distance, he then added a second assist for Matthew Shevlin who made it 2-1. A move of multiple passes came to a head when McKendry picked the ball up out wide before firing a ball low across goal, but despite offside appeals Shevlin tapped in from close range.

For United it was about seeing out the period just after the goal without falling further behind, which they did just about as Davy McDaid fired straight at O'Neill in his first game against his old side, before Jamie Glackin struck the outside of the post.

Heading into the last fifteen minutes Ballymena were still very much in it, but struggling to get the ball to stick up top, as Ervin turned to his bench with the introduction of Fiontan O'Boyle, TJ Murray and Kym Nelson.

As five minutes went up on the board to bring an ending to a fiery and intense first derby game of the season, United had the final chance when Michael Place drove forward and the ball fell to Waide, but he struck straight at Deane, as United fell short in the opening game of the season.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at August 4th, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 1 - 64 -
Scot Whiteside26 1 - 991
Steven McCullough28 1 - 2108
Colin Coates37 1111
Andrew McGrory31 1 - 14225
Michael Place25 1 - 616
John McGuigan29 1 - 1 -
Sean Graham22 1 - 723
Alex Gawne22 1 - 1 -
Ryan Waide23 1 - 11715
Jonathan McMurray28 1 - 9932
TJ Murray (sub)28 1 - 1 -
Kym Nelson (sub)28 1 - 565
Marc Walsh (sub)22 1 - 1 -
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)18 1 - 1 -

League Table (as at August 4th, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Coleraine 1 1 0 0 3
2. BALLYMENA 1 0 0 1 0