Football/Soccer

Coleraine manager offers new Swifts boss a helping hand - after today

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney

COLERAINE boss Oran Kearney has offered a helping hand to the new manager of table-propping Dungannon Swifts – but only after the sides meet this afternoon.

The Tyrone team are now under the new management of Kearney's brother-in-law Dean Shiels. Yet although caretaker boss 'Dixie' Robinson will again be in charge at Stangmore Park for this match, Kearney insists that family feelings won't ever come into it.

"I know when we face each other in seasons to come people will mention about us being brothers-in-law but - and I'm sure he'll say the same - it'll be business for those 90 minutes. That's the only way you can approach it…

"I'm delighted for Dean, although he doesn't take the job on until next week. I hope I'll be a good source of help for him, if he ever needs it. But as far as we're concerned trying to get another three points on the board is all that's on our agenda."

The Swifts have slumped recently and parted company with manager Kris Lindsay just over a fortnight ago. They have won just one of their last dozen league games, albeit on their travels, a 1-0 success at the Ballymena Showgrounds in early February.

Well beaten, 4-1, away to Warrenpoint Town on Tuesday night, Kearney believes that Shiels – who finished his playing career with Coleraine in 2019 - can help turn their fortunes around.

Shiels has been coaching alongside his father Kenny, the Northern Ireland women's team manager, helping guide them to a first ever Euro play-off place.

After a much-travelled playing career, notably with Hibs and Rangers, Kearney feels Shiels can bring plenty to the Swifts:

"I've known him from the age of 10, 12. He's always had a good understanding of the game, as a player, and he's proved over the last couple of years to be a top coach. He has all the tools, all the skill-set to go and do a really good job.

"Management is tough, Irish League football can be unforgiving, and I'll be there for him if he ever needs anything.

"I know since he retired from playing he's been working with the [NI] women and he's been looking for a shot. I think there were opportunities in the Championship, or Championship 1, so to get an opportunity straightaway in the Premiership is fantastic and one that I urged him not to miss."

Kearney himself has overseen a transformation in Coleraine's season, so much so that this could be 'top v bottom' this evening if the Bannsiders win and champions and leaders Linfield lose at home to Cliftonville.

Coleraine have now gone 13 games unbeaten, but Kearney says "I don't know the number – you tend not to look back, you just keep looking forward…

"It's not something that drives the changing room or the team talks, to stay unbeaten. I've seen runs like that before which have been littered with too many draws, so we don't get carried away."

Indeed that was the case three seasons ago, when Coleraine lost just one league match but were still pipped for the title by Crusaders.

However, Kearney admits that he and his players do cast their minds back to when things weren't going so well:

"In early December, we'd lost four in a row and we were sitting ninth or 10th with seven points out of eight games, something crazy like that.

"Football is probably one of the most humbling sports in the world. The highs are brilliant but the lows can absolutely hit you in the stomach.

"That's what fuels me. That period of time is fresh in my mind and, to be honest, it's probably something we speak about more to the players rather than 'Let's keep another game on the run'.

"Defeats are harrowing and quick to humble to you. People hate the mantra of 'One game at a time' but it's very apt for us because of the scars from earlier on in the season."

Interestingly, their fine form began after a 2-0 loss at Stangmore back on December 4, following on from consecutive losses against Crusaders, Linfield, and Larne.

"That's more motivation," accepts Kearney, ahead of the trip to Tyrone. "That night we weren't good and Dungannon were. That's another example of why you have to try to be at your best for every single game."

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Football/Soccer