Irish Premiership: McDermott magic, steady 'Stute and Currie's Carrick - five things we noticed

Coleraine marched on, Carrick shocked Ballymena and Conor McDermott did his best to end the goal of the season competition.

BBC Sport NI breaks down five intriguing talking points from another busy weekend in the Irish Premiership.

McLaughlin a reminder of Coleraine depth

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Coleraine beat 10-man Glenavon to stay top

First, let's just nip this in the bud. James McLaughlin did not score a hat-trick against Glenavon - his 'first' was clearly a Patrick Burns own-goal.

What he did do, however, was cause all manner of problems for the Glenavon defence, scoring Coleraine's second and third to ensure another three points were wrapped up in commanding fashion.

Ben Doherty, who scored yet another penalty on Saturday, has understandably attracted most of the plaudits this season, while Eoin Bradley has also shone for the league leaders.

But McLaughlin, who has missed a decent portion of this season with a hamstring injury, is a reminder of the firepower Oran Kearney has at his disposal.

If the Coleraine boss can manage to keep Bradley, McLaughlin and Doherty all fit and firing, it's difficult to look beyond the idea of the Gibson Cup leaving Belfast for the first time in 18 years.

McDermott form nothing new

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Cliftonville defender McDermott scores from his own half

Conor McDermott went viral on Saturday. As soon as the ball left his right boot, he was always destined to.

There was much to admire during Cliftonville's 4-0 win over Warrenpoint Town, but the ease, authority and sheer nonchalance with which the right-back lobbed Berraat Turker from inside his own half will live longest in the memory.

But for those who have watched the Reds on a regular basis this season, seeing McDermott take centre stage in another win was no surprise.

For the 22-year-old, on loan from Derry City until January, has been consistently outstanding throughout his four months at Solitude.

From his heat-seeking crossfield diagonal to tee up Joe Gormley's 200th Cliftonville goal during the 5-0 rout of Dungannon Swifts to his goal-saving challenge to deny Andy Waterworth in the County Antrim Shield victory over Linfield, McDermott has been immense.

Of course, Cliftonville fans must savour his enterprising runs up and down the right flank in the knowledge that he will likely return to his parent club in January.

Until then, he's very much a hero of Solitude.

The sky's very blue for Currie's Carrick

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Carrick survive late pressure to beat Ballymena

"If you'd told me that we'd be sitting on 15 points at this stage of the season, I'd have called you a fool."

Those were the words of a buoyant Niall Currie shortly after his Carrick Rangers side had stunned Ballymena United at the Showgrounds.

Daniel Kelly and Lee Chapman scored either side of Aaron Burns' leveller to give Carrick their third win in four games, a purple patch which has seen them vault up the table to eighth.

Currie has been keen to paint his side as the league's underdogs, but given the performances that tag is producing, we can hardly blame him.

In stark contrast, one of the most challenging periods of David Jeffrey's managerial career shows no signs of abating, with the Carrick defeat a fifth reverse on the bounce in all competitions.

Jeffrey, like Gary Hamilton at Glenavon, has been hit by a raft of injuries this term. But Friel or no Friel, he knows he'll need every ounce of his motivational powers to galvanise his players for Saturday's daunting trip to Solitude to face in-form Cliftonville.

Institute continue impressive progress

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Institute fight back to grab draw against Glentoran

Sean Connor's reign at Institute began as many would have predicted: with defeat at Cliftonville.

Since then, however, 'Stute have lost just one in eight, have beaten Warrenpoint and have taken points off Ballymena, Larne, Crusaders and Glentoran.

That sequence has seen the north west side move five points clear of bottom-placed Warrenpoint.

It's been steady but impressive progress for Connor's side, who know the importance of banking points with Linfield and Coleraine the next two sides to visit the Brandywell.

Saturday's result was immensely frustrating for Glentoran, who failed in their bid to extend their winning run to five games.

Baxter's men far from Cruesing along

Stephen Baxter's Crusaders haven't won in the league since 4 October
Stephen Baxter's Crusaders haven't won in the league since 4 October

Crusaders are going through one of those spells.

After big wins over Glentoran and Linfield, Stephen Baxter's side have gone five Irish Premiership games without victory.

They are not entirely unfamiliar to such middling form; they finished last season without a win in their final six league outings.

At that stage, Crusaders were well out of touch in the title race. This time, however, their sticky patch has seen them lose ground on top-two Coleraine and Cliftonville.

Their 0-0 draw with Larne was not what the doctor ordered after being held at home by Institute. Although conditions certainly played a part, the Crues created very little given the attacking talent they had on the pitch.

With tricky trips to Carrick, Warrenpoint and Dungannon to come, there may be further frustration in store for the north Belfast club.

You can watch the best of the weekend's action in the NIFL Premiership Highlights show here.