Half a Ton
COLERAINE boss Oran Kearney celebrated his 500th game in fine style as the Bannsiders reached the quarter-final of the BetMcLean League Cup…
After a scoreless 80 minutes, the Stripes would finally make the breakthrough as Jamie Glackin’s cross was prodded into the net by Conor McKendry at the back post.
Kearney made four changes for the contest and remarked that he had to use the squad to give his side the best chance of success.
“It’s been a long road and a few stories to tell within those 500 games,” he joked.
“It’s strange that the result is also the same as my first game in charge but I’m delighted for the guys to be through to another quarter-final and we want to keep pushing in that direction.
“We all know it’s a squad game and ideally you try hard in this competition but it’s a heavy load and we’ve a lot of players who’ve played a lot of minutes this year.
“With that, it’s a derby and you want to get through to the quarter-finals but you also want to be protective of players like Lee, who has been a big part of what’s been good about us this season.
“Whether he likes it or not, he’s 30 and the numbers he puts in is frightening at times when he’s on the pitch and I’m conscious of that.
“He doesn’t like it but he’s aware that the first chance we get to wrap him up in cotton wool that we take it.
“It’s a three game week; we played on Saturday, we played tonight and have Linfield on Saturday. With that, it’s important to keep things fresh as we have a good squad, we’ve bodies in the squad who were raring to go and we wanted to give a few an opportunity.”
Coleraine have reached the last two League Cup finals and Kearney stressed that Cup competitions are important for his side as the challenge for Danske Bank Premiership success intensifies.
“Cup competitions have always been a focus for us since day one,” he added.
“The League Cup is one that’s been hot and cold for us in recent years – we won one and lost to Cliftonville last year.
“We’ve got to back-to-back finals, and as much as it hurt that day against Cliftonville, they are still great showpieces and great to be a part of.
“We want another bite of that, to emulate that again and go a stage further this season.”
When asked about reaching 500 games in charge of Coleraine, Kearney stated that he has gained a few grey hairs but that it’s a role he continues to enjoy.
“I hope I’ve gained a bit of experience,” he continued.
“However, I’ve gained a few grey hairs I can tell you that and I can tell you a few players who made that happen.
“It’s been thoroughly enjoyable, I retired at 29 and I didn’t want to retire but I had no other choice and David Jeffrey was my manager.
“It was a real low at that moment in time about having to quit football at 29 when I didn’t envisage being that way, but little did I know then that it was brilliant as I was able to cut my teeth at Limavady.
“Football is socially great to be involved in, it’s great to have all those relationships as a player and then you keep that motoring as a manager and you visit grounds across the country and meet the same faces.
“The first four or five years were stressful whilst the next four or five were a tad more enjoyable.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher but it’s something that still consumes a lot of my mind on a daily basis.”