Return to Premier Intermediate League made even sweeter for former Larne midfielder after recovering from leg break

Coagh United midfielder Michael Tolan is preparing for a Premier Intermediate League return against Portstewart on Saturday. PIC: Coagh United FC
Coagh United midfielder Michael Tolan is preparing for a Premier Intermediate League return against Portstewart on Saturday. PIC: Coagh United FC

The 26-year-old suffered a serious leg injury in his last match at this level, breaking both his tibia and fibula in the dying moments of Moyola Park’s clash with Armagh City in the final stages of the 2021/22 season.

Less than seven months later, Tolan was back on the pitch and moved to Hagan Park in January, making 21 league appearances to help the County Tyrone outfit book their Irish League return for the first time since 2015/16.

That success helped make the long hours of rehabilitation all worth it for the former Larne man, who can’t wait to take to the pitch in Coagh’s season opener against Portstewart on Saturday.

"I played Championship and Premier Intermediate League for a long time but then I broke my leg for Moyola in the last game of the season two years ago,” he said. “Last season was my first time playing again after that injury so it's great to get back up into this league and challenge again.

"I broke my tibia and fibula so it required serious surgery.

"It was a 50-50 tackle and the tibia and fibula came out through the leg so it's now full of screws and rods, but it hasn't given me any bother.

"With owning my own gym I was able to look after myself through rehab and was actually back earlier than I should have been.

"It takes that first tackle to get your head around it.

"Even in training I was pulling out of tackles and the coach was telling me all I needed was one tackle and as soon as I got that the confidence came back straight away."

Despite winning the Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate title and beating Oxford Sunnyside in a June play-off, Coagh only had their Premier Intermediate League spot fully confirmed earlier this month after Donegal Celtic’s appeal over a player eligibility issue was dismissed by the Irish FA’s Appeals Committee.

Now on the eve of action, Tolan says there’s a buzz around the club and feels they have a squad capable of competing at this level.

"We're looking forward to it,” he added. “It's going to be a good challenge.

"Last year we won the league four times because DC had complaints so we won the league but were back in for more meetings, so we won it four times so it's good to get up here now.

"It was hard to get planned for this year because you didn't know what the outcome would be.

"We wanted to get players in but they want to know what league they'll be playing in so that was a big struggle.

"We had a great season last year and we've a good enough team here now that can help push the club forward.

"The goal for this year would definitely be staying up and challenging for a good cup run or something like that.

"We won on Saturday against Banbridge (in the BetMcLean Cup), who are a competitive side and we didn't look out of place one bit.

"Hopefully we can start the season with three points."