Oran Kearney left frustrated as clubs are left in limbo over funding delay

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It has been a difficult week for local football after the long-awaited delivery of much-needed funding seemed to have hit the buffers again.

The Sub-regional Stadia Funding programme looked to be facing a further impasse after the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced the project faced more delays due to the recent resignation of First Minister Paul Givan.

Unsurprisingly the news was met with wide spread consternation through the footballing family as this crucial funding programme, which had funds of £36m allocated to it back in 2015, was no closer to being delivered.

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The frustration and anger felt across the Irish League was clear for all to see as this decision not only affected clubs but the wider community as a whole.

Coleraine manager Oran KearneyColeraine manager Oran Kearney
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney

Coleraine Football Club is one such club who are hoping to benefit from much needed stadia funding.

Last year the Bannsiders published their business case for the redevelopment of their Showgrounds venue.

The detail document highlighted their short, medium and long-term objectives.

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The work would be split into three phases an cost an estimated £7m to help turn the Ballycastle Road venue into a National Stadium for the north west with covered seating for 8,000.

The club, who are already into phase two of the project following the installation of a 3G surface and other redevelopment works, have applied for a large portion of the funding to come from the Sub-Regional programme.

Coleraine’s plans have been a number of years in the planning and impact will be felt by both club and community if the programme does not proceed.

For manager Oran Kearney that doesn’t even bear thinking about.

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“Words like sickening would be right up there with the feeling at this point in time,” he said.

“I’ve been at Coleraine now for 11 odd years. I remember the excitement speaking with Colin McKendry in my first half season and we’d just started pre-season.

“I remember the conversation I had with Colin about what we could do to the ground and that this money was imminent.

“That was 11 years ago and Colin said to me the money would be released within a month, we’ll know about this in the next month and we’ve got to be ready to get moving here.

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“I remember how exciting that was for me as a young manager, looking forward to making big changes in infrastructure and really trying to raise the game in all aspects.

“We’re now standing 11 years on and yes, we have a really good pitch here now, but it’s been self-funded through a serious amount of graft and work.

“Eleven years on we have a stadium that’s an iconic type stadium and there’s a good roar off it and everything else but if we’re being honest it hasn’t changed in 25 or 30 years.

“You want to try and enthuse people and increase and improve the product and it’s just embarrassing to be honest.

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“How we can not come together to improve – seems like the easiest thing on the planet to do.

“We’re only hurting ourselves and that’s the saddest thing.

“This country – so many good things – The Open returning, Game of Thrones being filmed here.

“There’s so much good about this country but there’s so much as well that wouldn’t happen in Wales or Scotland or the continent or anywhere else.

“It’s really hard to take to be honest because I have a child now, lots of other people out there with children,

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“Ten years has passed since Colin and I had that conversation about what was going to happen here.

“We’re ten years down the line – what’s it gonna look like in another ten years?

“That’s the sad indictment of where we’re at at this moment in time.”

Coleraine head to Warrenpoint Town in the Danske Bank Premiership this afternoon, and Point boss Barry Gray echoed Kearney’s sentiments.

“The reality is that £36m isn’t enough anyway,” he said.

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“So they should go back to their desks and actually dish out a pot of money which is actually suitable for the requirements.

“It’s not just about money, it’s communities, people, kids, clubs, players, mental health and not to mention the revenue it creates for local clubs.

“Everyone is disappointed but let’s just hope the powers that be can make some sense of it, and when things get back to what is normal on the ‘Hill’, or somewhere close to normal, they can prioritise what’s greatly needed.”