Football/Soccer

Coleraine boss Kearney wants to embrace the hype

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney celebrates his side's win over Glenavon in last year's Irish Cup semi-final.

THE fate of the Irish league title may be out of their hands but Coleraine boss Oran Kearney still wants his players to embrace the hype.

The Bannsiders go to Glenavon knowing that even a win may not be enough for a first triumph in 44 years if Crusaders are also victorious at Ballymena.

However, rather than trying to shelter them, Kearney is happy to expose his players to the potential euphoria: “The players are well aware of what’s at stake. There’s a huge amount of hype in the last few weeks, and this week in particular, about the game and everything that goes with it.

“The last thing we’re going to be able to do is make them unaware of the scenario or what’s going on so the key thing is to embrace it and enjoy being in it, rather than not being in it.

“For many years as Coleraine manager we’ve been sitting in fifth or sixth with nothing to play for, in envy of the teams in this sort of scenario, so it’s great to be there. We just want to go and get as much out of it as possible.”

It’s an all-ticket affair at Mourneview Park, but the Bannsiders’ support, superb this season, can only be limited numerically, and Kearney expects them to lift his side again:

“The fans have been brilliant, coming out in numbers, particularly away from home. We’ve had great turnouts – at Linfield last weekend, at Crusaders at the start of the split, and I think we’ve nearly sold out our allocation of 1,600-odd. Hopefully we can give them something to cheer about.”

The dedication of ‘Oran Kearney’s Blue and White Army’ is not in doubt – but nor is that of the Ballymena team who host Crusaders, at least in the mind of the Coleraine manager.

Kearney is confident that his former Linfield boss David Jeffrey will prepare his team properly, even though they cannot improve their league placing, whereas Glenavon are competing for third spot with Linfield:

“Glenavon have something to play for – but Ballymena have European play-offs coming round the corner. Knowing big David like I do, I’m sure he’ll not want to go into that on a bad run of form, after a defeat or anything else. I’m sure they have their own agenda.

“I can honestly say if the shoe was on the other foot my concern wouldn’t be about Ballymena, my concern would be getting the performance that I want and the result that I want to make sure that we would go into the play-offs in the correct way. I assume it’ll be no different for Ballymena.

“I would expect that more than anything else… We played Ballymena a couple of weeks ago and it was a really tough game. It’s a job for many of these players and they are professional.

“I’ve no doubt that they’ll go and give it a rattle, it’s not really a concern of ours. It’s not something that we hold any control over. The key thing for us is to make sure that we do our job.”

That task, pure and simple, is to take three points and then see where that leaves Coleraine, insists Kearney:

“Absolutely we need the win and that’s it. We must pick up the three points, that’s all we can do, that’s all we control, and it’s so important that we do it.

“We’ll go at it the way we go at any game. The minute you try to do anything different is when things start to go wrong. We only know one way and that’s to try to perform for 90 minutes and get the result.”

That’s about all Kearney knows regarding today, he acknowledges, with the title up for grabs: “I think it’s a day that nobody can be prepared for, because it’s just 90 minutes of football.

“Crusaders have won titles and everything that goes with it – but I’ve players in my squad who’ve won titles as well. But having to win one on the final day will bring a totally different feeling to it.”

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