IRISH LEAGUE: Cooper’s class the catalyst as winger dedicates dazzling display

Glenavon's Joel Cooper
 put in a starring performance against Portadown.
Photo by TONY HENDRON/Presseye.com.
Glenavon's Joel Cooper put in a starring performance against Portadown. Photo by TONY HENDRON/Presseye.com.
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Anyone doubting Joel Cooper’s poential or ability should take a look at even the highlights of Saturday’s win at Shamrock Park.

The winger put in a sterling individual display, arguably his best ever in a Glenavon shirt.

Cooper netted twice and tore the Portadown defence asunder for the 90 minute duration, which must have felt a whole lot longer for the home back-line trying in vain to hold him back.

It marked a spectacular return to form for Cooper, who enjoyed a highly impressive first season in the Premiership last term, before being invited to train with the Northern Ireland squad at Euro 2016.

This campaign hasn’t seen him hit the headlines quite as often, but Saturday was special by any standards.

And of course, Cooper was keen to dedicate his display.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said shortly after coming off the Shamrock Park pitch. “Coming into the game, our only objective was to get into the next round, no matter how it happened. The way we did it was all dedicated to Paul Millar. It was really sad news so we dedicate all that to him. I think the boys showed how much he means to us. We wanted to do it for him and I’m glad we were able to.

“The extra hunger and the extra heart we had showed and I’m glad I was able to play my part.”

Cooper had netted just four goals before Saturday’s blistering performance but he admitted the demolition derby not only marked his brightest display of the campaign but also the whole team’s.

“Hopefully we can keep it up now,” he continued.

“My form’s dipped a bit this season. I’ve struggled with injuries and getting into the team but I was spurred on that extra bit, dedicating it to Windy.

“On a personal note, I’m delighted and hopefully I can keep that form going to the end of the season.”

Should Cooper continue to play to his peak, few who witnessed Saturday’s wizardry would bet against his spell being cast on Coleraine and Glenavon being transported into another Irish Cup final.

“We’ve won it twice in three years and hopefully we can get it again,” he said. We just have to keep going and keep focused on the next game.”

Saturday’s success was a sweet one for the Glenavon support, who have seen a reversal of Mid-Ulster fortunes in recent years. And even though he, with a cheeky smile, branded both his goals ‘mishits’, Cooper’s brightest performance in a blue shirt was the spark that ignited such a thrilling Glenavon performance.