Larne owner Kenny Bruce admits he struggled to contain his emotions after the Inver Reds humbled Aarhus in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night.
Bruce, who was in attendance with his family, leapt for joy when Davy McDaid fired Tiernan Lynch’s men into a third minute lead en route to a famous 2-1 win at Inver Park.
Dean Jarvis was also on target for Tiernan Lynch’s men on the half hour mark, before Aarhus hit back with a late response from substitute Alexander Ammitzboll.
It was a sickening sucker punch, but didn’t dampen the sense of occasion and achievement as Larne celebrated a famous win in front of their home fans.
“I don’t know if you saw me running up and down, but seeing Davy score that early goal against Aarhus was a very emotional moment,” said Bruce.
“It was probably the biggest sporting highlight of my life so far. My nerve endings were slightly tethered afterwards, but I thoroughly enjoyed the game. It was amazing.”
Larne owner Kenny Bruce and chairman Gareth Clements
A chance conversation with an elderly supporter after Thursday’s memorable second qualifying round win chimed with Bruce who took over his boyhood club in September 2017.
Over the course of the past four years, the multi-millionaire businessman’s investment and infectious sense of ambition has helped transform Larne, on and off the pitch.
“I went to the Aarhus game more as a fan, not the owner or director of a football club, and it was great to see and hear what it meant to Larne fans,” said Bruce.
“I spoke to one supporter after the game. He’s 76 years of age, has been a fan of the club since the age of five and he told me it was the best night of his life.
“It’s quite remarkable to have that kind of experience here at Inver Park and hearing that means a lot to me and the rest of the people at the club.
“I’m hoping I’ll get to witness even better nights at Inver Park in the future, but this has certainly been the highlight so far. It was terrific.”
Larne’s Jeff Hughes celebrates as David McDaid scores a goal
Bruce, who lives in England, has spent the past week in Northern Ireland, taking in the Aarhus game and last week’s 1-0 home leg win over Bala Town in the first round of the competition.
And if prevailing Covid-19 restrictions allow, the 46-year-old is hopeful he will be in Denmark to see next week’s crucial return leg at the Aarhus Stadium.
“I’m going to try to get to the away leg,” he said. “We’ll look at all the quarantine rules and so on and if things allow, I’ll definitely be there.
“We have nothing to fear heading into the second leg and the players should be super proud of what they have achieved so far. They have done a remarkable job.”
Can Larne finish the job against Aarhus next week?
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With Linfield also beating Bosnian champions Borac Banja Luka 4-0 at Windsor Park on Thursday night, Bruce believes the Irish League is in a strong position moving forward.
He also believes the local game has even more to offer and can grow further as a product in the months and years ahead.
“I think the Irish League is a tremendous product and I also think it can go much, much further than it is today,” he said.
“If everyone works together, I believe the Irish League has got a really strong ability to go way beyond what it is achieving now.”