Oran Kearney full of praise for rivals after tense title race

Oran Kearney paid tribute to both League champions Linfield and runners-up Cliftonville following the conclusion of another dramatic title race.

By Steven Crawford
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 9:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 1st May 2022, 9:35 pm

The Bannsiders had been the Blues closest title challengers in recent seasons but their role was reduced to a bit-part this term.

They stood in Linfield’s way for a fourth successive title with the Reds hoping Kearney’s men could snatch a result at Windsor Park.

In the end though David Healy’s men ran out 2-0 winners, but Kearney spoke of his admiration for the Blues boss and the title rivals.

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney congratulates Linfield manager David Healy at the final whistle

“It’s a great achievement for David especially with how the landscape of the league has changed in recent seasons with the full-time teams and the standard and everything else,” said the Bannsiders boss.

“They are the ones that we’ve all got to chase again next year.

“I think you have to give credit to both teams though.

“I’m sure David would say the same, the expectation of Linfield is to win leagues.

“We’ve come up against that in the few seasons we have pushed them hard.

“But I think you have to give massive credit to Cliftonville as well, with the distance they have gone, probably similarly to what we have done in recent seasons.

“To go toe-to-toe and hang in there until the last day is big testament to Paddy and all his players.

“It takes two to tango and two to make the race.

“In other years Linfield have maybe been 15 or 16 points clear with five games to go, but for the excitement for everyone.”

Coleraine were frustrating Linfield for most of the first half after a bright start from the hosts.

But the game was turned on it’s head minutes before the half-time break after Ben Hall and Chris McKee found the net much to Kearney’s frustration.

“Coming here today you knew they were going to come out of the blocks, you knew there was a guarantee that the first 20 minutes would be hell’s kitchen and it was all about getting through that and I thought we did that really well,” he said.

“The frustrating aspect of that is that when you’re so close to going in at half-time with everything intact, it is just frustrating to concede the goals.”