Ineligible David Kee still has big role in Coleraine's Cup quest: Kearney
Coleraine boss Oran Kearney says he feels David Kee's pain as his club captain will have to sit out the Tennent's Irish Cup final.
The terms of the midfielder's loan deal from Linfield mean the former Ballinamallard ace can't wrestle with his parent club in the May showpiece.
It's a cruel twist of fate for the tough-tackling 28-year-old, who agreed a season-long loan deal with the Bannsiders in August.
Kee would have known his fate on Saturday as Linfield had already overcome Dungannon Swifts in the first semi-final by the time he was introduced as a 90th-minute substitute in the 2-1 victory over Glenavon at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
As proud and happy as he was to help Kearney's side reach the glamour final, he was left with mixed emotions as he will be unable to cross the white line on Saturday, May 6.
Kee said missing out on the final was the "nightmare scenario" he never wanted to face, but his worst fears were realised at the weekend. Kearney has plenty of sympathy for the man he made club captain but the midfielder was unable to play against Linfield in Premiership battles and the rules are clear.
"It's very unlucky for David but it should be stressed that it's not Linfield digging their heels in, these are the rules now for players that go on loan, they can't play against their parent club and in the back of our minds we knew this was a possibility," said former Linfield favourite Kearney.
"In 2008, on-loan striker Rory Hamill helped Donegal Celtic knock his own club Glentoran out of the Irish Cup and the Irish FA changed the rules to stop that happening.
"Although we understand there was a chance of this scenario coming about, you still have a lot of sympathy for the player, but David will be a part of the Irish Cup final in other ways and involved with the squad."
Coleraine's captain on May 6 could now be either David Ogilby or Steven Douglas, depending on selection.
Bannsiders chairman Colin McKendry also shared his sadness that Kee was not available to help the north west side lift the glittering prize for the first time since 2003.
"The rules are clear with the loan agreement and we've had to accept that," said McKendry.
"It's unfortunate for David and you feel for any player caught in that situation where he cannot play in the final. He didn't feature in Linfield's squad for last year's final but the rules are there and can't be changed.
"David has been very good for us and I feel sorry for him as he's a great professional and along with the other experienced players like Steven Douglas, Neil McCafferty, Eoin Bradley and David Ogilby, he's been a tremendous help to the younger players.
"Oran has confidence in all his players, however, and he has faith the team can maintain their great run."
As one of the experienced players in the Coleraine squad always ready to steer the younger talent in the right direction, Kee will still have a major role to play on May 6.
The Bannsiders have important matches to play before that Linfield showdown comes around and every effort will now be made to seal European qualification, a prize that brings with it an estimated £170,000 - huge money in Irish League terms.
A third-place finish would book a continental adventure, and a home win over Cliftonville on Saturday would put them five points clear of the Reds.
A shot at Irish Cup final glory and Europa League qualification wasn't on the radar when the Bannsiders endured a bleak winter, but a 15-game unbeaten run has transformed the mood at the Showgrounds.
"You need a bit of luck along the way," admitted McKendry. "But Oran is such a structured, professional operator that if he wasn't a football manager and teacher I believe he could be a successful businessman as well.
"Things do not simply happen by chance and he has made astute signings which have lifted confidence."
McKendry was a 12-year-old boy when he watched Coleraine crush Linfield 4-1 in the Irish Cup decider at The Oval in 1977. In those days it was Liam Beckett, Dessie Dickson, Frankie 'Basher' Moffatt and Michael Guy doing the business in blue and white stripes but now the stage is clear for new heroes to emerge.