Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney makes David Kee skipper but says they won't abandon youth policy

By Stuart McKinley

Oran Kearney has snapped up midfielder David Kee from Linfield on loan and immediately handed him the captain's armband.

It is only the Coleraine manager's second major summer signing, with former Shamrock Rovers and Portadown striker Gary Twigg joining the Bannsiders last month, but Kearney sees that as a positive - even though he has lost midfield ace Ruairi Harkin.

The development of youngsters such as Lyndon Kane, Brad Lyons and Jamie McGonigle, as well as the experience of Ruaidhri Higgins, Steven Douglas and Neil McCafferty throughout the spine of the team, has meant there was no need to sign a plethora of new faces.

"Over the last few years we have put a strong emphasis on developing our young players at the club and that has served us well," said Kearney, who has also signed Gareth McConaghie from junior side Dervock.

"I wouldn't have wanted to stifle that or go against it, so it was about signing quality over quantity for me.

"I didn't need to be going out and signing five or six players like we might have done in the past either and I am pleased that we have got to that stage.

"For me it's a good thing that I haven't had to do a lot in terms of signing players. It shows that we have done some good business over the last couple of years."

Now, however, the challenge that Kearney is laying down for both himself and his players is to kick on and fulfil their full potential.

The Bannsiders, who have been awarded three points after their opening game against Portadown was called off due to the latter's suspension, were one of the most impressive teams in the league during the opening months of last season, but a league defeat away to Linfield in early December, at a time when Blues boss David Healy was coming under pressure after losing four in a row during November, quickly followed by a League Cup semi-final loss at the hands of Ards knocked them off the rails.

Although they ultimately finished fifth and reached the European play-offs, which was considered a successful season, Kearney wants more.

"We have aspirations of pushing on, being among the top teams and getting to cup finals, but I would think that most managers in the league will be thinking that," said Kearney.

"That is what I am asking of the players. Last season we were very disappointed by the semi-final defeat to Ards and when we came up against Portadown in the Irish Cup we believed we could do better.

"We have a group of young players and with that you get what happened with us and run out of steam towards the end of the season. They have had that now and those players will be better equipped this time."

Kee has signed on a season-long loan, having played competitively for Linfield as recently as their Europa League qualifying game against Cork City a month ago.

"It is nice to get the David Kee signing over the line before the season starts," said Kearney. "With losing Ruari Harkin we were losing quality in midfield and I wanted to replace that.

"David is experienced, he's at a good age and he will bring a lot to the club. He will give us a bit of bite in midfield and Gary Twigg knows that like any striker he will be judged on goals."

Kee takes over as captain from Howard Beverland, who has signed for Crusaders.

Coleraine briefing

Manager: Oran Kearney

Captain: David Kee

Star Player: Gary Twigg

Ins: Gary Twigg, David Kee, Gareth McConaghie

Outs: Howard Beverland, Ruari Harkin Verdict: 6th

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