It was a double celebration for Aaron Traynor following Saturday’s 4-2 win over Crusaders.
Not only did Coleraine close the gap on the league leaders to three points, but it also marked the full back’s first game in almost a year.
Traynor limped out of the 4-1 defeat to Glenavon at the start of October last year with a cruciate injury, completing a miserable day for the Bannsiders.
His league comeback on Saturday was a happier occasion as Traynor came through 65 minutes unscathed and helped his team to a very valuable three points.
“I sort of knew I was playing during the week and what a game to come back to, a top of the table clash,” he said.
“All the pressure was probably on us to go and get the three points. I’m glad I’ve come through it injury free and I’m glad we’ve got the three points.
“I was more worried about my performance than picking up another injury.
“I think my knee is holding up well, I was just worried about the rustiness with not having played. I’ve been athletic in training, but when it comes to my touch and passing it hasn’t been too good.
“I was a bit worried about my performance going into the game, but it worked out okay in the end.
“I spoke to Oran about it on Thursday night and I was saying that I was glad it was game against the likes of Crusaders, because against teams maybe at the other end of the table there’s serious pressure on to get the three points.
“It was good to go out there and just play your game and whatever happened happened.
“It was a weird feeling because naturally you would think I haven’t played in ages, but once we kicked off it was like the year hadn’t happened and we were just back in the swing of things again.”
The Bannsiders were excellent on Saturday as they bounced back from conceding an early goal to run out deserving winners.
Traynor though is refusing to get carried away just yet.
“It’s early days and you don’t want to start thinking you’re great just because you managed to get a win over Crusaders,” he said.
“It’s just another three points and we’ll move on to Larne next week, which is another big game.
“Obviously it’s a great start for us, I’m not going to deny that. We’re unbeaten but we’re looking to keep that going. We have our own targets, we’ll keep them to ourselves, but we’ll be out to keep chalking them off.”
The result made it an incredible 43 games unbeaten for Oran Kearney, and Traynor is full of praise for his boss.
“I can’t speak highly enough about Oran,” he said.
“In terms of what he has done for me it’s crazy.
“When he brought myself, Ciaron Harkin and Stephen O’Donnell in we were Championship players and no-one had heard of us.
“He gets the best out of us, and we have done quite well since then.
“He does that with everyone. When you go out on to that pitch you feel seven feet tall.”
It’s safe to say that under Kearney, the Coleraine Showgrounds has become a real fortress.
You have to go back to have to go back to 22nd April 2017 for the last time Kearney tasted a domestic defeat on the Ballycastle Road.
It’s an incredible record with Bannsiders picking up again where they had left off following Kearney’s return to the club after a season with St Mirren. It shows no sign of coming to an end anytime soon if Saturday’s excellent 4-2 win over Crusaders is anything is to go by and Kearney is hoping to continue to put on a show for the home support.
“Over the last couple of years we have fond memories of here, the atmosphere and the performances in some of the games we’ve had,” he said.
“This season we are trying to get that back again and get that buzz back. There is a new ‘Club 1927 Lounge’ opened and there has been a huge amount of work being carried out behind the scenes on that.
“There was more people through the gate and when you get them back and through the gate, it’s important you produce a performance for them and hopefully we have done that.”
The Bannsiders haven’t had the best of luck at the start of this season and came into Saturday’s game without the suspended Stephen O’Donnell and Adam Mullan, and top scorer James McLaughlin, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Many would have been expecting the Crues to have walked away with the points, but the Bannsiders produced another top drawer performance to deservedly win the game.
“Crusaders are a top side and were throwing on player after player and I was wondering where they were coming from,” said Kearney.
“The quality of their squad is absolutely phenomenal and I think when you go 1-0 down after two minutes, with the front four they have on the pitch, you think this could be a long day.
“Credit to our lads, that performance was coming. I don’t think we’ve had the rub of the green this season in relation to other bits and pieces. We’ve picked up four red cards already and dropped points along the way, partly us to blame and partly external sources, so today we were adamant that we wanted a big day here and a big performance here.
“We don’t have the depth of a Crusaders or Linfield, but I’d back what we have as a squad against every other team in the league provided we can keep everyone fit.
“We were missing those three and were right down to the bare bones, so it took people to come in and step up to the mark and I thought those who came in were brilliant.
“Jamie Glackin has come in and done extremely well, Aaron Traynor, having missed the last 12 months got through it mentally as much as physically. I’ve been there as a player, so I’m delighted for him as he’s a huge part of what we are as a club and I think it was a spur for everybody to see him out there.”