COLERAINE boss Oran Kearney spoke to the media after the Bannsiders’ penalty shoot-out defeat to Ballymena United yesterday evening…
The Stripes would be denied a place in Friday’s showpiece decider after losing out on spot kicks against their derby rivals at Windsor Park.
Coleraine looked certain for a third Irish Cup final appearance in four years as they led with just three minutes of injury time to go, but they would be dealt with a sucker punch as Kenny Kane pounced from close range to force the game into extra-time.
Unsuccessful spot kicks from Stephen Lowry, Eoin Bradley and Ben Doherty allowed the Sky Blues to progress into the final, with Kearney admitting the result was ‘hard to take’ for everyone concerned.
“I thought we had done an A1, professional job right up until the 95th minute or whatever it was,” he said.
“It’s different if there’s an onslaught for 15 or 20 minutes, but I think that was their first shot on target.
“I thought the way the boys had adapted and we had got our goal it was everything that we wanted it to be.
“Also we were seeing it out in the correct manner. There was no onslaught or big scares, everything was going to plan.
“It just seemed there was two or three second balls in a row, then all of a sudden before you know it the ball is in the back of the net.
“It’s hard to take from a player’s point of view and a staff point of view.
“I have to pay big credit to the players, because you talk about momentum swings and everything else in football, Ballymena are cock-a-hoop and our boys are down in the dumps.
“But I thought our response, particularly in the first half of extra time showed a huge amount of character and endeavour to go and flex our muscles again and show that the tie wasn’t over.
“It was the same in the second period, and when it goes to penalties it is what it is.
“We put three of our renowned and best penalty takers first.
“I’ll never shout, and I said that to the players afterwards, I will never fall out with anyone for having the courage to step up and take a penalty.
“We’re just disappointed with the manner of the game, we had got it right to that point where it looked so comfortable it looked like we were there, but that’s cup football.
“I’ve congratulated David (Jeffrey) and wished him all the best for Friday.”
The Bannsiders would create two or three good chances in the second-half and ultimately paid the price for their lack of killer instinct in front of goal.
“We spoke at half time because of where we are at at this moment in time, and the fitness levels of the teams we had to be prepared to take a 1-0,” Kearney added.
“We created a number of chances in the second half. ‘Skinner’ put a free kick past the post, Ben has a chance and James has one saved right at the death.
“From where I was at we were the most likely to score, but again the mindset was what we have we hold and try to get the clean sheet knowing that would put us through to the final.
“It’s different if you’re battered for the last 15 or 20 minutes and you feel it’s coming, but that’s not how it felt.
“It was the opposite maybe, it was too comfortable, and then bang you get hit with a sucker punch.”
The boss called on his players to learn from the occasion as the Stripes quickly turn their attentions to the Europa League qualifying tie next month.
“We’ve had great experience in Irish Cup over the last few years,” he concluded.
“We had a final defeat to Linfield which we had to learn from, and today will also be the same whether you like it or not.
“You learn a huge amount when you win, but you learn more when you get a kick.
“We’ll hurt for the rest of this week, but we’ll kick on from it.
“We will probably give the guys a few days off now and come in and do a light session on Saturday.
“We’ll crack back on again next week.
“We are probably halfway through pre-season as such, but eyes will quickly turn to August 20.
“There will be movement of players, and ideally movement in, the key thing is to make sure we recruit well and leave ourselves strong.
“Missing Curtis Allen and Stewart Nixon hurt us today in relation to the last period of the game having fresh legs.
“It’s well known we don’t have a big squad and it hurt us moving into extra time.”