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Irish Cup: Coleraine fired up to deliver on the big stage, says Kearney

 

By Graham Luney

Oran Kearney has had enough of the back slapping and well done messages - he's got an Irish Cup final to win. The Bannsiders' sensational form this season has sparked a flood of praise but the Coleraine boss is tired of the compliments.

Many observers already believe that the Showgrounds side are going to be plucky losers at Windsor Park today and the former Linfield midfielder says his troops can use that attitude as extra motivation.

Coleraine's revival since January has been one of the stories of the season and a third-place finish, combined with Europa League qualification, has the doubters eating humble pie, however Kearney doesn't want nice words - he wants to bring the Irish Cup back to the town for the first time since 2003.

"It's a massive game but we are not defeatist," said Kearney. "We've had a lot of patronising comments like 'You've had a great season and it's nice to get to a Cup final and into Europe' but I want to win a game of football on Saturday and win a Cup.

"It's not so much the comments about young players, it's just the claims that Coleraine have punched above their weight and it's not so much patronising as people thinking you are turning up here to be beaten and watch Linfield lift the trophy. That's great because we can use that as motivation.

"I fought so hard as a manager to have the chance to go out there bursting with pride and when you get opportunities like that you don't want to let it pass you by, that's the big thing."

Critics have also suggested that the younger Coleraine players will freeze on the big occasion. Kearney doesn't buy it.

"It's the opposite for me to be honest - I worry about the older players and that's just through experience," he said.

"The older I got the more I thought about finals and thought this one could be my last and I wanted to play well. You possibly over-analysed things.

"The young lads are just fearless and I have yet to see them freeze. We threw three young lads into a derby last week and Ballymena United threw a 16-year-old in against us and they all accounted for themselves very well and why?

"Because at that age you don't give a damn, you are just buzzing and we will need to keep feet on the ground and focus on the game because they will milk the crowd and be hyper.

"The big pressure for us this season was getting Europe nailed and we wanted to be in a position where we could give the Cup full attention.

"There's a big buzz and we have a cracking changing room. Ciaron Harkin arrived in January and it's like he has been there for a few years, Skinner (Eoin Bradley) is the same and those two have been brilliant on and off the pitch. If you watch the boys in training you will see that good relationship."

Kearney played in the 2008 final when Linfield overcame Coleraine 2-1 and he also featured two years earlier when Glentoran were put to the sword 2-1.

But as a manager, his responsibilities are much more significant and for that reason, should his side conquer Linfield, it will be the sweetest Irish Cup success of them all.

Kearney added: "Even doing the dry run there during the week, I had my son and daughter with me and it will be magical. As a player you can be selfish and focus on yourself, your preparation and doing your job, but I suppose as a manager it's the absolute opposite.

"One hundred per cent, the pressure is different as a manager. When I won it I played for Linfield and I'm not saying you were expected to win it but it was probably more of a probability. With Coleraine, the last Cup final was 2008 and the last Cup win was 2003 so things like this haven't come around often enough and it's important that we seize the moment."

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