Oran Kearney's return has helped Coleraine catch the winning bug says Eoin Bradley
Danske Bank Premiership: Crusaders v Coleraine (today, 3pm, Seaview)
COLERAINE take their 11-game unbeaten run to Seaview today – and Eoin Bradley insists the Bannsiders have caught the winning bug because of Oran Kearney’s return to the Showgrounds.
The former Derry GAA star has bounced back off his sick bed to aid the Coleraine cause as they aim to repeat the dose following September’s 4-2 victory over the Crues – the only defeat Stephen Baxter’s table-toppers have suffered.
Coleraine are currently tucked in behind the Hatchetmen, three points back in second place, and Bradley says Kearney’s return after a season spent at Scottish side St Mirren has been crucial to their revival.
“It’s probably mostly down to him,” said the 35-year-old, who has bagged five goals so far this season.
“Last year was just one of those years… whenever he left things just weren’t right. Whenever Rodney [McAree] came in he tried his best but with injuries and suspensions, we didn’t get the right run.
“I’d say it’s down to a mixture of things, but the biggest factor is the fact that Oran’s back. He’s a good man-manager – he knows whenever a player needs a rest, whenever a player needs a bollicking, when a player needs an arm round the shoulder…”
So how does he deal with a man who has seen it all, between soccer and GAA? Bradley laughs as he outlines the dynamic between the pair.
“Two or three weeks ago he took me off and I lost the head with him… I’m always cross when I’m taken off, but he says he likes to see that - it keeps him focused.
“He knows how to work me. If that man asked me to do anything for him, I’d go and do it because I know I’d get the same sort of thing back from him.
“That’s the sort of respect I have for him as a person, as a manager, and that’s the respect he has for me. If he says something to me, I’m not going to go and backchat him, I’ll go and do it to the best of my ability because I know if I asked him to do something he’d do it to the best of his ability too.
“Most of the players are on that same wavelength. You always know where you stand with him.”
The next couple of games will give Kearney’s men a fair indication of where they stand even at this early stage in the title race, with Linfield visiting the Showgrounds next Saturday.
And Bradley says Coleraine will need the rub of the green along the way if they are to sustain their challenge alongside the league’s big guns.
“We believe we’re as good as any team on any day.
“Crusaders have a couple of injuries but with the squad they have, it wouldn’t matter if they had two or three injuries, there would still be boys coming on just as strong.
“We have to be very lucky with injuries, with suspensions, with a whole pile of different things where Crusaders and Linfield can afford to miss two or three players and they’ve another five sitting on the bench.
“We’ve a panel of 18-19 players, it’s a strong panel, we work for each other, we’re a tight unit, a wee rural club but we’re well run, well looked after and everyone works for each other.
“If we can keep it going and keep in the mix there, you never know what would happen.”
IRISH LEAGUE STATS
(all games kick-off at 3pm)
Carrick Rangers v Dungannon Swifts
IT’S been a tough start to the season for Carrick, having lost 10 of their 12 games – league and cup – thus far. However, Dungannon just squeezed past Niall Currie’s men when they met three weeks ago, and Carrick will be confident of picking up something at home today.
Odds: H: 8/5 D: 13/5 A: 13/10
Crusaders v Coleraine
COLERAINE head to Seaview looking for the win that would draw them level with Crusaders at the top of the table. And Oran Kearney’s men come into the game in flying form, bringing with them the only unbeaten record in the league, though the Crues will be out for revenge after their 4-2 defeat to the Bannsiders in September.
Odds: H: 4/5 D: 11/4 A: 13/5
Institute v Cliftonville
PADDY McLaughlin returns to Institute, with his Cliftonville side buoyed by Tuesday night’s County Antrim Shield win over Linfield. The Reds edged past Institute when they met last month, and they could be in for another tough afternoon against Sean Connor’s men.
Odds: H: 13/2 D: 4/1 A: 1/4
Linfield v Ballymena United
BALLYMENA United sit just two points off fourth-placed Linfield, but there is a feeling the Blues best is yet to come. David Jeffrey’s men will need to be at their best to take anything away from Windsor Park.
Odds: H: 4/7 D: 11/4 A: 7/2
Warrenpoint Town v Glenavon
GLENAVON won the first meeting between these sides early on the in season, but since then the Lurgan Blues have struggled badly – losing 7-0 and 6-0 away to Linfield then Larne. Bottom side Warrenpoint might just scent blood, and a second league win of the season.
Odds: H: 11/4 D: 3/1 A: 4/6
Prediction: Warrenpoint Town