IT would prove to be a busy month for the Bannsiders as boss Oran Kearney would depart for St Mirren, with Rodney McAree named as his successor…
Coleraine would start the month of September with an away clash against Crusaders live on Sky Sports. It would prove to be a memorable evening at Seaview as the Bannsiders ran out 3-0 winners via goals from Josh Carson and an excellent brace from Jamie McGonigle to move top of the table. Defender Aaron Canning made his first appearance after re-joining club, with Brad Lyons also given a fitting reception as the midfielder penned a deal with Blackburn Rovers. However, after St Mirren parted company with Alan Stubbs, the Buddies returned to the North Coast to appoint Oran Kearney as their manager.
History would be made the following weekend as Coleraine entered the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup for the first time as Formartine United were the visitors to The Showgrounds in the first match of the post-Oran Kearney era. The Bannsiders were heavy favourites to overcome their Highland League opposition but they fell behind as Austin MacPhee struck from close range. Thankfully, the Stripes responded before the break to level as Josh Carson sent a crisp half volley into the back of the net. Both teams would be guilty of missing chances after the interval so penalty-kicks would decide who would make it through to the third round. Remarkably, the first five penalties were missed, before Gareth McConaghie netted the first, although Andrew Greig levelled with a delightful effort into the bottom corner. Bradley redeemed himself by netting again with substitute Conor Gethins striking wide when he had to score meaning the Stripes progressed to the next round. At the end, boss Oran Kearney was given a standing ovation as he turned his attentions to life in Scotland.
Coleraine would appoint former Dungannon Swifts supremo Rodney McAree on a two-and-a-half year deal and he was in the stands as the Bannsiders made the trip to the Bangor Fuels Arena to face Ards. A combination of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping by Sam Johnston meant the Stripes would only leave with a goalless draw despite dominating proceedings against Colin Nixon’s men.
McAree would finally be in the dugout for the first time as Linfield made the trip to the Ballycastle Road and it would prove to be another goalless draw as defences were on top. Veteran defender Steven Douglas rolled back the years in a superb man-of-the-match performance, but Coleraine blew a sigh of relief late on as Michael O’Connor’s effort looked certain to find the net, but thankfully it cannonned off the post and away to safety.
If Linfield was the perfect way to whet McAree’s appetite, then three days later, would have rivalled that as Ballymena United rolled into The Showgrounds for the first derby match of the season. Things got off to a bad start as striker Eoin Bradley was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident with United skipper Jim Ervin. The visitors would capitalise on their man advantage as Tony Kane curled in a delightful effort from distance, but Coleraine responded through Darren McCauley’s exquisite finish. However, back came David Jeffrey’s side who took the lead before the interval as Andy McGrory powered past Chris Johns. Just as it looked like Coleraine would lose their long unbeaten record, they grabbed a point as Stephen O’Donnell headed home from a corner-kick to end a pulsating derby.
A fourth successive draw would end the month of September as missed chances would once again be the Achilles’ heel for the Stripes as they made the long journey to Newry City. It was the first meeting between the two clubs since 2011 and City took the lead in the first-half as Declan Carville headed home from Mark Hughes’ pin point free-kick. The Bannsiders’ sustained pressure after the break paid off as they grabbed an equaliser on 57 minutes. A cross field pass from the lively Ian Parkhill evaded the Newry defence and Aaron Burns made no mistake in converting from close range. Coleraine searched for a winner as McLaughlin and Lowry threatened only to be denied by some expert goalkeeping from Andy Coleman. The result meant Coleraine had won three and drawn six of their first nine league games.