Mixed emotions for Kearney as European adventure ends
There were mixed emotions for Oran Kearney as Coleraine’s European adventure came to an end on Thursday night.
The Bannsiders put in an impressive showing over two legs against FK Velez Mostar but came up short in their Europa Conference League qualifier.
Kearney was rightly proud of their efforts against the Bosnian outfit, but it was tinged with frustration as they spurned a couple of key moments.
“When it split down into the four teams you could get I did a bit of research through a couple of friends, and I knew this was the hardest league we could have got,” he said.
“There was Luxembourg and Gibraltar, those were the ones we probably wanted. They were the weakest out of the four. The quality of the Bosnian league is really good, and we had a fair idea straight away that we were going to be up against it.
“What also makes it tougher from last year’s exploits is that it is back to being a two-legged tie again.
“You’re having to adjust the players’ mindsets to that too in relation to the nature of the knockout last year compared to the four quarters this year.
“You’re looking to ensure that the tie is still alive come the second leg. We could have lost it in Sarajevo and had nothing to play for tonight.
“The shift the boys put in was great especially when you take into account the travel, the food, the conditions, the home crowd - they were 5,000 going on about 12,000!
“The players acquitted themselves fantastically well. We felt we could go about it a different way tonight, and we did with the formation and personnel and everything.
“Having got through that first stage of it when he thought we could have a real go and shake them.
“For about 60 minutes I thought we had them well and truly shook.
“But on nights like this, and with experience from Maribor last year, you need everything to fall into place.
“Matthew has a big moment before he scores the opener which he believes he should finish. He scores a great goal before half time and then four minutes after the break he has another gilt-edged chance.
“He’s a young player learning his trade, but he’s devastated in there and it’s nearly taken the gloss off his goal for him. But he’ll learn from it.
“If that goal goes in we get an adrenaline fuelled 20 minutes where we kick on again.
“But not scoring kept it like a basketball game and we know the qualities they have.
“The game became very open and they took advantage of that. You could see the dangers, Gareth has had to make a few saves.
“We talked about the stars aligning and their opener takes a nick off Stevie and ends up in the back of the net.
“Those are the things which kill you on a night like tonight.”