Belfast Telegraph

We're striving to cut gap on Blues and Crues: Ogilby

By Graham Luney

Coleraine's experienced defender David Ogilby has admitted it will be difficult to smash the dominance of the Danske Bank Premiership's top two, Linfield and Crusaders, next season.

Oran Kearney's side stormed to a stunning third-place finish but they still ended the campaign a whopping 22 points adrift of the second-placed Crues.

Linfield won the title in thrilling fashion on the final day of the season, edging out their north Belfast rivals by only two points.

The Bannsiders also made it to the Tennent's Irish Cup final, where they lost 3-0 to the Blues, and qualified for the Europa League.

Coleraine and David Healy's champions will be reunited in today's Action Mental Health Charity Shield at The Oval (3pm) and at least Ogilby and co won't have to face Andy Waterworth, who floored them with a hat-trick in the Cup final, as he's receiving treatment on an injured knee.

But the Blues and Crues are expected to slug it out over 38 matches for the league title and the centre-back, who is going into his 15th season after making his Coleraine debut in 2003, feels it will be hard to hunt them down.

"I think it's going to be very tough to crack those two, Linfield and Crusaders," said Ogilby, who has been battling a heel injury.

"They will be favourites for the league title and rightly so but we will give it our all this season to try and stay in touch with them.

"We must try and close that gap and the challenge is there to keep moving in the right direction. It's important we show we are a better team than last season and we beat everyone last season so we know on our day what we are capable of.

"Linfield will be favourites after what they achieved last season. They have the momentum and confidence of that, combined with their Irish Cup success, and they should be bouncing into this new season on a high. They played well against Celtic (in the Champions League qualifiers) and will be full of confidence.

"We've no complaints about the Irish Cup final. Linfield were the better side, that's sport. Sometimes the opponent is better than you and you accept it while learning from it. But it has left us with a hunger to return and perform better. This club aspires to compete in finals and the occasion was fantastic if the result wasn't.

"It's important we use that experience to push us on to become an even better team. This Charity Shield game would be nice to win but the league game at Dungannon Swifts next Saturday is more important."

Aged 33, Ogilby is one of the elder statesmen in a Bannsiders squad packed with promising young talent and he admits time is running out to realise his dream of lifting a trophy with the club.

"I really enjoyed my football last season and I'm at the age now when I go into every campaign believing it could be my last," he added.

"You never know what the manager's plans are. I give my best all the time to prolong my career but I haven't long left. I still hope I have a few more Cup finals in me with Coleraine. I've had a decent career but no trophies and I'd love to put that right.

"It's going to be hard to match last season, we had a fairly successful campaign, reached a semi-final, final, finished third in the league and reached Europe. We more or less have the same group of players but we have set the bar high now and must aim for that every year.

"We've got to make that the norm, not a one-off. The fight for the European places is fierce and we won't underestimate anyone but our young players are gaining experience all the time and with that they will get stronger."

Coleraine striker James McLaughlin, who is recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury, has agreed a one-year contract extension with the club, remaining with the Bannsiders until the end of the 2018-19 season.

The club have also announced the short-term loan signing of Derry City defender Scot Whiteside, pending international clearance.

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