Coleraine focus on final over derby date

Oran Kearney. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Oran Kearney. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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In any other season a home game against your big rivals would be the perfect finale - but not this year for Coleraine.

With just under a fortnight to go to the big Irish Cup showpiece event at the National Stadium on May 6 - and with European football finally secured - the Bannsiders now have their sights set on bringing the trophy home.

As a result, Oran Kearney admitted he is likely to rest key players for Saturday’s final league game against Ballymena United.

“I would think that most of the 11 who will play probably won’t feature in the final starting eleven,” he said. “We have a slight issue with Brad so we won’t risk him, Lyndon had a knock and we didn’t want to take any chances with him either.

“People might demand a derby win, but there’s no point winning that game and then losing Lyndon and someone else to injury for the final.

“I’ve done it before and taken a wee bit of abuse for it but it’s generally the tradition of what teams do ahead of a final.

“One more big game is all I’m looking and then it will be a deserved rest for everybody as we’ll be back early with the European game.

“We’ve had a real push from the board, the fans, the players and the backroom staff, it has been a phenomenal effort by everyone.

“We will ease off the pedal now for the next week or so to get charged up for what is going to be a great final.”

Ballymena United stand level on points with Cliftonville and could finish the season sitting fourth overall.

“Fourth spot is still possible and we face Coleraine wanting to do our best,” said United manager David Jeffrey. “After achieving that aim of a top-six spot the challenge was set to see what we could do against those teams.

“You look at models of clubs and we want to mirror Crusaders and Cliftonville in terms of where they were and the jobs they have done.

“The Europa League play-offs are at the back of our minds, let’s see how high we can finish.”