Local men in tight battle for Premiership crown this season

Aaron Burns celebrates with teammates.
Aaron Burns celebrates with teammates.

The Irish Premiership title race is fast becoming a Scarva v Banbridge battle!

Aaron Burns from Ballygowan Road is starring for league leaders Linfield while Scarva man Chris Casement has been the stand-out player for fellow championship contenders Portadown.

Burns scored twice and was named man of the match as the Blues beat Ballinamallard 3-0 last Saturday to go above the Ports into top spot.

Casement was November player of the month for the County Armagh outfit, who now sit joint second in the table, just a point behind Linfield.

And the teams meet at Windsor Park on Saturday (December 20th).

Casement is ruled out of the showdown though through suspension.

But while they are rivals on the pitch, Burns and Casement have been on the same side this week, handing out presents in a surprise pre-Christmas visit to the children’s ward at Daisy Hill Hospital!

Aaron explained: “Chris is one of our coaches at Burns Soccer School and a few of us went up to Daisy Hill.

“We’ve had a great year working with children from throughout the area covered by the hospital including Banbridge so we just wanted to give something back to the community.”

So will it be Christmas cheer for Burns or Casement at Windsor on Saturday?

“It’s a huge match for both teams,” admitted 22-year-old Aaron, joint top scorer for the Blues this season on 12 goals.

The midfielder continued: “We are under no illusions, Portadown are a good side, they are coming to our home ground and we are going to have to take the game to them.

“It should be interesting for all of us!”

Burns is a former Ports player – 26-year-old Casement is ex-Linfield and has also been capped by Northern Ireland.

Aaron again: “We know each other well and my brother Andrew and I were delighted when Chris agreed to come on board as a coach at Burns Soccer School.

“We recently signed separate partnerships to work with Linfield and Portadown to establish schools programmes – and Chris is taking care of the Portadown end of it.”

Meanwhile, the Ballinamallard vice-chairman Desi Quinn has joined Aaron’s ever-growing fan club.

He was full of praise for the Banbridge man’s match-winning performance against the Fermanagh side at the weekend.

Quinn said: “He’s a class act. Some of the goals Aaron’s been scoring recently are like something you would see in the Premier League in England.

“I know there’s talk of him going across the water and after seeing him on Saturday I can understand why.”

The Ballinamallard official has also been suitably impressed by the other Burns twin, Andrew, a defender with Dungannon Swifts.

“We played the Swifts a few weeks ago and Andrew did extremely well - not only in defence, but he also pushed up and came within a whisker of a great goal.”

Quinn added: “Andrew is also a lovely footballer – it must be something in the water in Banbridge!”