IRISH LEAGUE: Coleraine have injury concerns before Cliftonville clash

Rory Donnelly
Rory Donnelly

It is fair to say it has been a mixed week for Coleraine.

After the high of their last-gasp victory over Linfield on Saturday, the Bannsiders were hit with the news that key duo Brad Lyons and Eoin Bradley would be sidelined for a significant period due to injury.

And on Tuesday night they lost their first domestic game of the season when they were edged out of the BetMcLean League Cup by Crusaders.

Oran Kearney though feels his side have the quality to keep their impressive league form going despite the squad being stretched to its limits.

Joe McCready played a key role in the Bannsiders’ winning goal against the Blues last week, and Kearney feels he is ready to take his chance.

“When we signed Joe we thought he would probably have played more by now, but the form of Eoin and Jamie McGonigle has been so good Joe has had to kick his heels on the bench,” he said.

“Joe’s 26/27 now, he’s similar to the likes of the Parkhills and the McLaughlins, who we have had success stories out of in the past.

“For me the big thing Joe brings is hunger. He was playing for Limavady United in front of a couple of hundred people last season, and last Saturday he’s out playing a massive role in the game.

“We only have 20 in the squad so with injuries and suspensions those people who were kicking kicking their heels waiting for an opportunity now have to step up to the mark to keep this going.

“We have a couple of aches and pains which we nursed through Tuesday night’s League Cup match.

“Hopefully that will leave us fresh for Saturday.

“It’s important that the other guys who came into the team for the game against Cliftonville rest up as well as we are down to the bare bones at the minute.

“It’s important that we look after what we have now.

“It’s not about runs or when we will be beat.

“We are not in the business of protecting our run, it’s about getting points.

“People can say last Saturday’s win was a good three points and whatever else that goes with it.

“With all the wins we have had this year, you get the same points for each one.”

Kearney knows his side will be given a stern examination by Cliftonville on Saturday, but he is boosted by the return of Josh Carson from suspension.

“It has all the makings of a good game as Cliftonville have come into a good bit of form,” he said.

“It’s a massive bonus for us to have Josh available again after suspension.

“With him not having played for a couple of weeks he will have a great deal of hunger, desire and buzz to be back again.

“We will need every bit of that for Saturday.”

The Bannsiders will come up against a Cliftonville side full of confidence after making it six wins in a row following their win over Glentoran last Saturday.

And to further delight manager Barry Gray striking duo Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly look to be moulding a very potent partnership.

Donnelly helped himself to a brace at The Oval, with Gormley providing an exquisite assist for his first.

“It was fantastic for Rory to get the two goals – that’s what everyone wanted to see – and for Joe to be the supplier,” said Gray.

“We are starting to see the partnership between Joe and Rory really come together now.

“It was a fantastic ball in by Joe for the goal and a great finish by Rory.

“Joe general play was fantastic and his work rate was phenomenal.

“It’s good for him and his confidence levels. I’ve no doubt more goals will flow for him over the next few games.

“Rory showed good striker’s instincts with his two goals in a game which was a wee bit nip and tuck at 1-0.

“It was a good convincing performance by us, we did the ugly stuff very well.

“It has been a good couple of weeks for us, the boys seem to be on top of things at the minute”