Oran pleased to see another starlet come through

ORAN Kearney insists the emergence of Academy players into the first-team squad is important to keep the feeling of ‘local identity’ after Alfie Gaston made his senior debut on Saturday…

The 15-year-old was given a 20 minute cameo at The Showgrounds during Saturday’s 3-0 win against Larne.

The midfielder has been training with Kearney’s side for the last two months and is tipped for a bright future after impressing for the club’s U16’s, 18’s and 20’s teams this season.

And Gaston’s introduction to senior football means he followed in the footsteps of his uncle Rory Hamill, who helped the Bannsiders win the Irish Cup in 2003.

“He definitely has a bright future,” Kearney said.

“Alfie is one I’ve known about for a long time since he’s been at the club.

“He’s got good genes, he’s a nephew of Rory Hamill and if he turns out anywhere near as good as what Rory was, he’ll not be a bad player.

“It’s one of those scenarios where I think in his brain he’s more than able and he showed that in his 20 minute cameo that he’s ahead of the game.

“He showed really good flashes of what we know are there.

“The key thing is that he’s 15 and it’s weighing up that aspect of it where you’re not endangering him or putting him in a scenario where it’s unsafe for him.

“We thought today was a good opportunity, I wrestled with starting him and then wrestled back to the fact that we started Patrick Kelly when he was 17 and Alfie is only 15.

“I wanted to gauge how the game was going and then get him out there.

“I’m delighted for him, it’s a nice reward for him as he’s been in training with us for a few months now and doesn’t look out of place in first-team training.

“The key thing is now letting him catch up physically for the rough and tumble of the Irish League.”

Kearney handed the aforementioned Kelly a senior debut in August 2021 and the talented midfielder has since made the move to West Ham United, starring in the FA Youth Cup final success against Arsenal.

However, the Coleraine supremo was quick to play down comparisons between the two players’ rise into the first team set-up at The Showgrounds.

“There’s no comparison as Patrick is Patrick and he was superb during his whole time with us,” he added.

“It’s not about trying to make Alfie live up to anyone else, Alfie is Alfie and he’ll go about his business his own way.

“It’s great, it’s testament to the work going on around the club and I think it’s so important having a crux of local players and local identity.

“I don’t think we ever want to lose that as a club.

“You still have to be good enough and that’s where you have to be patient and wait for the right ones.

“It’s a great start for Alfie, he still has a lot to do but I’m sure the same boy will keep his head down and start working.”