Oran Kearney tight lipped about Coleraine targets after win at Cliftonville
Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville 1 Coleraine 2
COLERAINE manager Oran Kearney has set two targets for this season, but he's not about to tell anybody outside his camp what they are.
The Bannsiders ensured their perfect start to the Danske Bank Premiership campaign continued on Saturday with an impressive win at Cliftonville, but Kearney was refusing to say whether he believed his side were equipped to go one better than last season and win the Irish League title.
“We've two targets that we live and die by, but they're internal to the changing room, they're not going beyond that,” said Kearney last night.
“The targets that we've set allow us a bit of flexibility. It means we can afford to lose games, we can afford to draw games without getting too worried about not reaching our goals.
“If we'd lost yesterday, we could still have hit the targets we've set about reaching a certain number of points at a certain point in the season, but obviously winning our first two games gives us that comfort zone that we're on the right track.”
Coleraine were one of the form teams of last season, finishing second in the Danske Bank Premiership and capturing the Irish Cup – at the expense of Cliftonville – and they've picked up where they left off in May. An opening day win over Warrenpoint Town was followed up with Saturday's 2-1 win over the Reds at Solitude, and Kearney was impressed with his side's performance.
“I'm delighted that we've got our season up and running so early,” he added.
“No disrespect to Warrenpoint, but Saturday was a different level of game and I'm impressed as much by the manner of our performance as much as by the result. Cliftonville are a team with the same type of ambitions as ourselves, they play at a similar level and we went there and matched them.
“In the past, it's taken us maybe three or four league games before we got that first win under our belts and to get two out of two, especially with players missing, is brilliant.”
One of the players who was missing from that opening day win against Warrenpoint was Aaron Burns, only for him to come off the bench at Solitude on Saturday and bag a brace either side of Stephen Lowry's own goal.
“Aaron Burns' impact on Saturday was top notch,” said Kearney.
“He missed our first game last week as his child was being born and we went with a different forward line. We went with that forward line again on Saturday and Aaron was very understanding of this.
“But what he did when he came on is what any substitute should be aiming to do in his position – rub our noses in it for leaving him out, if you like.”
With one potential title rival put to the sword on their own patch and another – reigning champions Crusaders – dropping points on Saturday, Coleraine may be an attractive option for an early-season punt, but their manager is keeping his cool.
“We move onto the next game, it's as simple as that,” Kearney said.
“It's far too early to be looking at other teams and what they may or may not be doing. You might do that come April or May, but certainly not now.”
As for the champions, it took a Rory Patterson strike to rescue a share of the spoils against Ballymena United at Seaview. A spectacular lob from Johnny McMurray gave Ballymena an early lead against Stephen Baxter's men before Ross Clarke equalised just seconds into the second-half.
Ryan Mayse fired home to put United back in front, only for Patterson to steer in on 67 minutes to make it 2-2. Patterson was denied by the woodwork as the Crues pressed for a winner, but Ballymena held on for a deserved point.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Andy Mitchell struck twice in Glenavon's 4-2 win at Warrenpoint, while Glentoran beat Ards 2-0.
John McGuigan connected with Dylan Davidson's free-kick to put the Glens in front in Bangor and Curtis Allen added the second before the break. It was a first win of the campaign for Ronnie McFall's men, while Ards are still to get off the mark.