COLERAINE manager Oran Kearney reflects on the Bannsiders’ victory over Ards and how his players are relishing being top of the Danske Bank Premiership table…
After a goalless first-half at the Bangor Fuels Arena, the Stripes seized control after the break and secured all three points via strikes from Josh Carson and Darren McCauley (2).
Kearney – the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Manager of the Month for August – admits his players showed ‘more courage on the ball’ in the second-half.
“I was delighted with both halves,” Kearney said.
“People get carried away with the run we are on thinking that you just step on to a pitch and everything is beautiful, but we need to get away from that.
“The players are well aware of that, that backroom staff are aware of that, it’s about keeping your foot on that.
“It was a bitty first half, we didn’t show enough courage in the first half, I said that to the boys at half time.
“At half time I said there’s no point coming in here and saying ‘work harder’, ‘try harder’ or ‘wait and it will come’, because it won’t.
“I told the boys I needed courage, it wasn’t 50/50 courage, or jumping into tackles or putting your head in where it hurts, I needed my footballers to go and get their foot on the ball.
“We train on this type of surface, it suits us down to the ground.
“Thankfully in the second half we did, when we showed that bit of courage for the first person to make that pass on the ground the next five or six came easy because that’s what we do.”
The manager was quick to heap praise on midfield duo Brad Lyons and Ciaron Harkin for their mature performance against an experienced Ards engine room.
“I thought Brad Lyons and Ciaron Harkin in the middle today, again against three men, which they play against most weeks, were fantastic, and they were the two who really settled us down in the second half,” he added.
“They are 19 and 20 and you are asking them to take on information like that.
“I made my debut in the Irish League at 22 and those two kids are just different gravy.”
Kearney admitted it was a tough decision to start Ian Parkhill ahead of Jamie McGonigle, but knew the Northern Ireland Under-21 international would make the difference when introduced.
“It was a tough decision for me and one which I have mulled over for a while,” Kearney revealed.
“The one thing I didn’t want to do was punish Jamie for his success.
“He had a cracking start to the year, he was scoring goals, and he got the reward of being called up to the Under-21s.
“But Ian Parkhill played that well, along with everyone else last week, which left me in a massive quandary – do I stick with Jamie because it was his shirt and he didn’t give it up through a bad performance, or do I stick with Ian?
“The line was so tight I just decided to go with the whole team.
“Jamie was fully understanding, but you could just see that wee edge with him, he knew it wasn’t going well and he was out warming up well into the first half, and he stayed out at the break.
“He knew and I knew what was going to happen. I just had a feeling he was going to be the person to turn it.
“It was a great strike for the first goal, and his run for the penalty as well was brilliant.”
The result ensured that Kearney’s men remain top of the table, but while many are suggesting with that comes nerves, the manager argues that his players are ‘enjoying’ it.
“They are a cracking group and we recruited well in the summer, Europe was brilliant in settling those guys in and they have hit the ground running coming in,” the manager said.
“There’s an enjoyment and an excitement there.
“Yes we are top of the league and everyone is reminding of that, but I just keep saying to the lads the test is how long can we stay there.
“Can we go and win the next cup final next week, if we do that we take care of things ourselves and we are there for another week.
“It’s great, they are all enjoying it and so am I.
“We just want to keep enjoying it.”