Oran Kearney: We’re not standing still, it's too easy to do that
The feel-good factor at Coleraine Showgrounds is there for all to see.
For the third season in a row under boss Oran Kearney the Bannsiders have secured runners-up spot in the Danske Bank Premiership.
They are also set to embark on a fourth European campaign under Kearney when they take on FK Velez in the Europa Conference League qualifiers at the start of next month.
Away from the playing side of things a new 3G pitch is currently being installed at the Ballycastle Road venue, and plans have been released for the redevelopment of The Showgrounds.
But the cherry on top of the icing on the cake was securing the services of Kearney for another three years.
The Bannsiders boss is one of the driving forces behind the impressive blueprint for the future and keeping him at the helm is a massive coup for the club.
Kearney is a fiercely ambitious man, and he demands that from his team and club.
And although he is pleased with the progress they have made on the pitch, he admits to being frustrated to have missed out on the Gibson Cup over the last few seasons.
The challenges of coming up against more full-time teams in the league is one which Kearney welcomes.
He knows that his Coleraine side will have to do things differently to stay competitive, including in the transfer market, but plans are in place, just like they are for off the pitch, to take the club to an exciting new level.
“It’s always been our plan to target the league,” said Kearney.
“I think the first few years here it was never a possibility.
“It’s only in the last four or five years that you start to harbour those ambitions only because of the work that has gone on, and we find ourselves in a position that we can compete.
“It’s been highly frustrating over the last few years. It’s been very enjoyable from a club perspective to get four trips to Europe out of five, but as I say it’s been frustrating to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride.
“In saying that even in the last three or four years we are absolutely punching above our weight in relation to the other clout that there is in the league.
“To get Europe this season with the four other full-time teams that are there was great, but that’s only going to get tougher as they establish themselves and really kick on.
“But with that it’s thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a challenge, but it’s not one we’re defeatist in. We’ve looked at it and said it’s not fair.
“We manage to find a way to hang on to these teams.
“Moving forward it’s going to be as tough if not tougher.
“But we have to find ways and hopefully the pitch and the facilities will be one of those things that allows us to really push on.
“I’m fiercely ambitious and we all know the journey we’ve been on over the last ten years since I’ve been at the club.
“But the big part of me wants to sustain and go even further and the new pitch is a big part of that.
“With me at the front of it I have to be the one who continually raises the bar and pushes everyone around me in relation to that.
“To be fair to the board they’re wanting to do the exact same.
“When decisions like this are made, and when you look at the plans that have been released and how this place will hopefully look, it whets your appetite.
“It really makes you want to be a part of it and be around it.
“We’re not standing still and I think it’s easy to do that in life.
“It is highly dangerous when a group of people are at a club for a certain amount of time, and that goes for me as well because the easiest thing to do is to get into a comfort zone.
“A huge amount of thought has gone into the pitch and restructuring around the changing room and bits and pieces to change how we manage in a working week.
“Also from a training point of view the pitch will allow us to really raise the bar in those aspects.
“As much as you demand of players to go again and they find this new lease of life and hunger to go again it’s important that comes as well.
“For me in this next cycle the development of everything that we’re talking about, if that doesn’t enthuse or inspire anybody to want to kick on then you shouldn’t be in this game.”
The transfer market is one area which Kearney admits has changed in recent seasons with more full-time teams in the league.
But again rather than complain about it the Bannsiders boss looks at it as a new opportunity.
“With the full time teams now it has absolutely changed how I go about my business now.
“Now there are certain players in the league that we just won’t go for and couldn’t go for, simply because if we were trying to compete with those full-time clubs we simply couldn’t cope with it.
“But what we also have to look at is that it doesn’t always suit every player in this country to be a full-time player.
“First and foremost we have to be the best part-time club out there.
“Last season by our league position we finished top of the part-time clubs as far as we’re concerned.
“With that we’ve got to keep looking for the best players we can and that fit the model we’re trying to sustain.
“We’ve always said we’re very careful about who we bring into the club.
“Gone are the days when we had 14 players going out and 12 coming in.
“The business we’ve done over the last couple of years is a big indication of where we sit at this point in time.
“We’ve a group of players who are settled but are still hungry, which is very important because sometimes if you’ve been at a place for a long time it can breed a little bit of boredom.
“But we manage to keep enthusing people, and that’s not just down to us, the players bring a lot of that themselves.
“There are a lot of fantastic leaders from within the club both vocal and non-vocal. But with that we’re really content with where we sit at this moment in time.”