Oran Kearney has hailed the important role the Coleraine fans have played in his side’s season so far.
The Blue and White Army have been out in force, home and away, to cheer on their beloved Bannsiders.
They will travel to the National Stadium in their thousands on Saturday and the Bannsiders’ boss highlighted how important they are to the team.
“The fans have played a huge part in our season,” he said, “It was disappointing we didn’t get a goal or go on and win the game for them on Saturday.
“From Christmas onwards, they have doubled in numbers.
“They have followed us in huge numbers all around the country.
“When we went to Crusaders on Easter Tuesday night the noise was unreal.
“There is such a fantastic buzz about the club at the minute.”
The supporters gave the team a rapturous ovation at the final whistle following Saturday’s goalless draw at Glenavon, despite the disappointment of losing the league title.
Kearney admitted it was a tough one to take but was quick to point out the boys will be up for Saturday’s cup final.
“It was tough to take,” he said.
“You’re in it to win it. When you get to that final day someone is going to get hurt.
“Unfortunately it is us left feeling like that.
“You have to credit Crusaders, they knew they needed to win the game and they did win their game.
“It was always out of our hands unfortunately.
“I don’t see the need to pick anyone up.
“If I thought I needed to pick someone up they wouldn’t be in the squad, it’s as simple as that.
“The players know what is at stake. We’ve been there and done that last year.
“That experience has left us with a lot of anger and hurt and we want to go there and put that result right.
“With that in mind, the thought of having to pick anyone up shouldn’t be there. We will freshen the legs up again this week and we’ll look forward to a big game on Saturday.”
Kearney spoke of his pride in what the players have achieved to date this term when many pundits expected their title challenge to run out of steam earlier in the season.
“It has been a brilliant title race, and I told our lads I’m proud as punch of how they have gone about their business. It is fantastic that we have gone the distance. Credit to Crusaders for how hard they pushed us, but credit to us too for how hard we pushed them.
“Both teams have brought the best out of each other.
“We are hugely proud and it has been a fantastic season.
“There have been so many plus points and performances, with the last six weeks all being cup finals.
“When I think how the players have represented the club, they can all be proud of what they’ve achieved and pushing so hard.
“I thought the guys were brilliant against Glenavon, and, in particular, I thought we were really good in the first half.
“There was a little spell in the second half when we didn’t kick on probably as well as we would have wanted.
“We’ve a few missing through injury and suspension and that left us down on numbers so we didn’t have a huge amount to be able to change things.
“It hindered us not having the likes of Eoin Bradley and Josh Carson available.
“It all comes down to fine margins on the day. That one of Darren McCauley’s which clips the bar, who knows what happens if that goes in?
“Ian Parkhill had a fantastic shot which drew a great save out of Tuffey in the first half as well.
“With the other game at 0-0 we don’t know what effect that would have had if it had gone in, and we’ll never know.
“It’s only natural the lads will be disappointed as there has been a huge amount of emotion thrown into Saturday’s match.
“We let that clear over the weekend. We didn’t do a huge amount of talking after the game and we will meet up on Tuesday night and will look ahead then.
“We have to accept what has happened over the weekend to move on straight away.”
Kearney has no fears about suffering any more Windsor woe after their recent draw there against Linfield in the League.
The Bannsiders boss says the cup final will be a very different occasion.
“It’s a new experience playing at Windsor Park,” said Kearney.
“When you go there for a league game against Linfield it can be quite quiet as there’s only a couple of thousand people at it.
“But on Cup final day you can multiply that by six in relation to the noise and everything else that goes with it.
“It’s a very different experience and I’m glad our boys have been through it.