THE PRESENT DAY
David Platt appointed
After much speculation about who would be following Marty Quinn into the Showgrounds hot seat, the Management Committee didn’t have to look too far when making their appointment. David Platt had spent the previous two seasons as Quinn’s assistant and was well respected by the players.
Another member of the famous Platt footballing dynasty, David had been a goalkeeper for Coleraine in the early 1990’s, becoming the first third-generation player in the club’s history (following in the footsteps of his grandfather Howard and father Davy) and had spells at several other north west sides before injury brought his career to a premature end. He then worked his way up through the coaching ranks at the club and now followed in the footsteps of his uncle Jim, by being handed the manager’s job.
His first season began well, with Coleraine playing a more attractive style of football and, with new signings, including Richard Gibson and Gareth Harkin, gelling well with the established players; Coleraine went top of the Premiership table after six games.
The early form couldn’t be maintained however, and a bad run of form in November and December tempered the early optimism. Dipping into the transfer market in January, Platt brought Darren Boyce back to Coleraine after an unhappy year at Glentoran and he scored a hat-trick on his return in a 4-0 win at Newry, which ended a ten match winless streak.
Coleraine were knocked out of the Irish Cup after a controversial tie against Glentoran at The Oval, but returned to East Belfast the following week and shocked the eventual champions with a 3-1 win, with goals from Carson, Gibson and Crossan. Six days later, they defied the odds again and won 1-0 against Linfield at Windsor Park. Gareth Tommons, signed from Limavady in January, scored the decisive goal, while Davy O’Hare saved a last-minute penalty to preserve Coleraine’s advantage.
These results effectively booked Coleraine’s place in the top six split and they eventually finished fifth, a promising start from the new regime.
Another fillip for the club was the inclusion of Stephen Carson in the Northern Ireland squad for a friendly in Italy during the summer. Carson started against the world champions and performed credibly against a team which included many top Serie A players.
Aiming to build on that success, Platt was busy in the transfer market during the summer of 2009. Michael Hegarty, Aaron Canning and Marc Mukendi all brought different attributes to the squad, but the most intriguing signing was Rory Patterson.
A prolific goalscorer in non-league football in England, but nonetheless an unknown quantity in the Irish League, Patterson wasted no time in making an impression, scoring on his debut against Linfield and then hitting a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Ballymena United.
Despite the late-August addition of former Everton youth player Eunan O’Kane, Coleraine were inconsistent throughout September and October, only recovering after a rather fortuitous North West Cup final win over Limavady United. Wins over Dungannon and Crusaders got them back on track in the league, but it was another visit to The Oval which would provide a season-defining moment.
Coleraine tore the defending champions apart with a superb display of attacking football. Boyce opened the scoring against his former club, but then Patterson took over with four goals displaying the full range of his talents, before Carson put the cap on an astonishing 6-0 scoreline, Coleraine’s biggest ever victory at the East Belfast venue.
Then a week after events at The Oval, Coleraine hosted a live Sky Sports match for the first time and Patterson and O’Kane (2) scored as Glenavon, managed by old favourite Marty Quinn, were swept aside. Bad weather at the end of 2009 hurt Coleraine’s momentum and by the time league action resumed, the club had been rocked by the news that Patterson had signed a pre-contract with Glentoran. He kept scoring however, netting four again as Coleraine defeated Crusaders 5-2 and then a hat-trick against, irony of all ironies, Glentoran, in a 4-3 win for Coleraine, but his relationship with the supporters was never the same again.
Patterson was also instrumental in wins at Windsor Park and Solitude and he earned a Northern Ireland cap in a friendly against Albania at the start of March, but by that time Coleraine’s season had begun to unravel.
Sitting on the fringes of the title race at the end of February, a winless March left them with a fight to even make a top six place. This bad run meant that they headed into the Co-Operative Insurance Cup final against Glentoran in poor form. On the way to the final they had overcome Lisburn Distillery and Cliftonville over two legs, before defeating Dungannon in the semi-final at The Oval, but their earlier momentum had all but disappeared by the time they took on the Glens in the Windsor Park showpiece.
But Coleraine lifted themselves after falling behind in the first half and with teenage winger Stephen Dooley a constant threat, soon turned the score around, with Boyce and Patterson hitting the target. A defensive lapse on the stroke of half time gifted Glentoran an equaliser and after the enforced substitution of Dooley in the second half, Coleraine lost their way.
The game went down to a penalty shootout and while Glentoran scored all four of their kicks, Aaron Canning and Boyce missed, and Coleraine suffered a heart-breaking defeat. A week later, they drew against Portadown to miss out on a top six finish and a fortnight after that, hopes of glory in the Irish Cup also faded as despite leading 2-1 going into the final ten minutes, an injury-hit side conceded three late goals against Linfield.
Given that the team were the second-highest scorers in the league and boasted the top two goal scorers in Patterson and Boyce, seventh place represented a major underachievement. But with Patterson gone, how could Coleraine replace his 41 goals the following season?
Initially, hopes were pinned on former Ipswich and Hibs striker Sammy Morrow, who had joined the club in February, but he left for Tranmere after only playing two games of the 2010/11 season. Coleraine had signed a number of big names during the summer, including David Scullion and Aaron Black, but the start to the season was a complete nightmare.
The first six games brought six defeats and not a single goal scored, but the duck was finally broken in a North West Cup win over Limavady, before two goals from another new signing, defender David Ogilby, helped kick-start the league campaign with a 4-0 win over Donegal Celtic.
Although results picked up, goals were still hard to come by and in an attempt to remedy this, Platt pulled off a major coup by attracting one-time Chelsea trainee Leon Knight to the club. Knight made an instant impact by scoring twice on his debut against Glenavon and continued to impress until an injury ruled him out and then another severely cold winter put the season on hold over Christmas.
Coleraine started 2011 well, with wins over Cliftonville and Glentoran but this was followed by a number of poor performances and after back to back defeats against Dungannon Swifts that saw Coleraine slump to tenth in the table, Platt was sacked by the club’s Board at the beginning of February.
Oran Kearney arrives
The club didn’t waste any time in appointing a successor, with Limavady United manager Oran Kearney being appointed a mere two days after Platt was dismissed. Kearney had trained with Coleraine for a period in the mid-1990’s before going to University in Liverpool. On his return he had played for Moyola Park and Ballymena under his father-in-law to be, Kenny Shiels, before joining Linfield, where he was a key member of the side which won the domestic clean sweep and three successive league and cup doubles.
Injury saw him prematurely call time on his career in 2009 and he had made an impressive start to his career in management at Limavady. Coming with him was his assistant from Limavady, Trevor McKendry, who returned to the club after a spell as a player in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Kearney’s debut on the bench came in a derby at Ballymena and, despite just one training session with the team, he got a battling performance from them and a 1-0 victory, Kyle McVey tucking away a late penalty to win the match.
An impressive unbeaten run followed, with Coleraine pulling themselves away from trouble at the bottom and into contention for the top six again. There was another memorable win over Linfield at Windsor Park, although a defeat to Crusaders at the end of March meant they would finish another season in the bottom half of the table.
There was disappointment also in the Irish Cup as Coleraine lost out on penalties to Glentoran after an action-packed quarter-final replay at The Showgrounds, but the season finished with four successive wins, meaning the highest possible finish of seventh was achieved.
A number of long-serving players, including Carson and O’Hare, left the club during the summer, but with the squad being refreshed with a number of new arrivals hopes are high that Kearney can continue to build on his positive start and ultimately, bring success back to The Showgrounds.