COLERAINE manager Oran Kearney gave his views after the Bannsiders claimed a 2-1 win over Cliftonville at The Showgrounds…
The home side had to come from behind after trailing to Jay Donnelly’s 36th minute strike. However, like numerous times this season, the Bannsiders fought back and secured a valuable three points as goals from Stephen Dooley and Jamie McGonigle separated the two sides.
Speaking after the game, Kearney admitted the second-half was probably the most enjoyable in his seven-year spell in charge.
“I said privately all week that I was really worried coming into today’s game because of what we have been through mentally this week,” Kearney said.
“The emotion of the semi-final, the buzz of the surreal experience on Tuesday night and sometimes I’ve seen it before where we have got a good result at Windsor Park and then thumped 4-0 by Dungannon because mentally you have nothing more to give.
“I just worried about the mental aspect of it, the first-half you could see that. We were a little bit lethargic and we urged the players to flex their muscles in the second-half and thankfully we did that.
“The second 45 minutes will go down in my time as one of the most memorable. The buzz, the excitement, Dooley’s finish for the first, Jamie’s calmness for the penalty. It was just surreal, the fans were terrific and it just keeps it going.”
Kearney was also quick to heap praise on the supporters for their part in the dramatic comeback on the Ballycastle Road.
“Absolutely the fans played their part,” Kearney added.
“It can be an eerie place, particularly at times like this because it is tense, it is edgy and we all feel it. We felt it at Seaview and a lot has been said about Crusaders having four home games, but sometimes that edginess can creep in.
“I felt it here before, but the noise and singing after the goal went in lighted the place up and it was a different environment.”
The Bannsiders’ victory allied to Crusaders’ draw at home to Glenavon means the Stripes moved level on points at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership. Stephen Baxter’s side have the advantage of a better goal difference, but Kearney insists confidence remains high in the Coleraine dressing room.
“We have never thought that we couldn’t win the league,” Kearney continued.
“There is no point saying you can’t, we are not a big headed team, we never get ahead of ourselves, but in the same stretch, the one thing our changing room doesn’t lack is belief.
“They have grown as a group and a unit over the last 18 months and cup finals, semi-finals and Europe have added to that.
“With every big cup final we play, they grow and grow, there is no doubt in our belief that we can go and win our next three games.
“That’s all we can do.”
Kearney also gave reasons why Josh Carson and Eoin Bradley started on the bench.
“The only thing I was allowed to do with the European money was to buy the GPS monitors and they are invaluable due to the information that they give us,” Kearney revealed.
“Throughout the season it’s been clear to me to see that from Saturday to Saturday, there’s no huge issue in player workload.
“But when you play a midweek game, the stats drop down especially in the midfield and striking areas as they do a mighty shift.
“Defensively they don’t cover close to the miles the front six put in and with that Josh has put in a serious shift this season and Skinner in particular is 34 and I had a hunch all week that the last 30 minutes of today’s game would be more important than the first 60.
“I said that to Skinner on Thursday night and I said please just trust me on this one and he understood that. I just felt there would be moments where going down the pitch in the last minutes that we would need him and it proved that.”
At the end of the game, Coleraine ‘keeper Chris Johns was full of emotion after allowing Donnelly’s effort creep into the net, but Kearney believes the Bannsiders wouldn’t be joint top of the league without their number one.
“It means something to him,” Kearney concluded.
“We didn’t even speak about the goal at half-time as there was no need too.
“I think there were two errors out on the pitch that could have stopped the shot. It is a bread and butter shot for Chris and he usually saves those but we wouldn’t be sitting joint top in the table without him.
“It takes all sorts to help us out and Jamie has pulled Chris out of a hole, but there’s been days where Jamie hasn’t been firing and Chris has produced save after save.”