IRISH CUP: Kearney’s Coleraine ‘coming of age’

Celebration time for Coleraine at the final whistle. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Celebration time for Coleraine at the final whistle. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Oran Kearney hailed his players for ‘coming of age’ after their dramatic 2-1 Irish Cup semi final victory over Glenavon on Saturday.

The Bannsiders have suffered several cup heartaches in recent seasons and the fear was they would turn out to be the bridesmaids again.

But those experiences have been a learning curve for Kearney and his team, and those young players have realised their potential to become mainstays in a talented Coleraine squad.

“The big thing for me was the coming of age of the team,” he said.

“I said to the players pre-game that I’m fed up with the label of a young team.

“I told them that most of them had been through a coupe of semi finals now, and they have 80-90 games behind them, there comes a time in your career, whether as a player or a manager, you have to make the decision to step up or just be there to make up the numbers.

“I told them I wanted us to make that step and get into a final, we’ve done all the aspects of trying to perfect the side, by we are all at a point were life is too short and careers are too short that you need to be involved in days like this.

“I’ve been very jealous watching the Irish Cup final over the last few years.

“I was lucky to play in a coupe and I also missed a couple through injury and they were horrible days.

“So for all the boys I’m delighted they will now get the opportunity to go and sample something I had the chance to sample as a player. “

It was an epic cup tie with numerous chances for both sides. Brad Lyons’s opener on 48 minutes was cancelled out by James Singleton with 20 minutes to go.

It looked like extra time until James McLaughlin headed home with a minute to go to send the Bannsiders into their first final since 2008.

“It had been a real roller coaster,” said Kearney.

“With the run we had been on we have been really good at scoring and then kicking on.

“I thought today was carnage at times, when we scored the game just opened up, we looked nearly looked like the team chasing the game.

“Glenavon had two or three opportunities and we had big scares at our end of the pitch.

“But the one thing we have tried to drill into the boys is a bit of resilience.

“We’ve come through a couple of semi final defeats, we had a lot of hurt in there of wanting to go and put things right.

“Even with our backs against the ropes for big parts of the second half we dug in and held on to keep ourselves in the game.

“We sent James on with 15 minutes or so to go, he’s a big game player, he’s had a frustrating year with injuries.

“But I said to him going on ‘these are the days you go and make a name for yourself, go and be a legend, go and do something that you will be remembered for for years to come’.

“Eoin Bradley probably had a bitty game, but you keep him on the pitch as he is one of those players who can still produce something.

“And with his right foot he produced a great cross, and it was like slow motion for me, the minute the ball left Skinner’s foot I knew it was a goal.

“James didn’t break stride, that’s just the way he finishes, he does it all the time in training.

“I’m delighted for him, he’s a local lad, he works in the town, he gets it in the ear win, lose or draw.

“For me it’s nearly poetic that he scored the winner,” he added.