Belfast Telegraph

Linfield a class apart, says Coleraine manager Oran Kearney

Oran Kearney has bad news for any team dreaming of knocking Linfield off their perch at the top of the domestic game — forget it!

Linfield are on the brink of celebrating their sixth double in seven seasons and the latest title celebration could come as early as tomorrow with a win over Portadown at Windsor Park.

Blues old boy Kearney knows how ruthless the Linfield trophy-winning machine can be and, as Glentoran embark on a period of transition and other sides struggle to keep pace with the rapid improvement at Windsor, the Coleraine boss can see the writing on the wall for the next few years.

The Bannsiders host Cliftonville tonight in a Sky televised clash (7.45pm) with both sides targeting European qualification, but the Gibson Cup is out of their reach.

David Jeffrey’s side are 12 points clear of second-placed Portadown, underlining the harsh reality that, while other teams can win knockout tournaments, no-one can match the champions for consistency over the campaign. And as far as Kearney (pictured) is concerned, Linfield could hold onto the number one spot for years to come.

“You look at the strength and the age of the players in the Linfield squad and you can only make one conclusion,” said the former Blues midfielder who was part of the sensational domestic Grand Slam winning team of 2006.

“Linfield always have been the team to beat but they are currently unbeatable in terms of winning the league. Glentoran are going through a transitional period and when it comes to consistency Linfield cannot be caught.

“The league is over this season and you have to say they will take some stopping next season. It’s very difficult to see anyone toppling them.

“There is no substitute for experience and when you have players who have amassed in excess of 250 appearances for them that makes a big difference. They’ll always be vulnerable in one-off games but over the long haul they can’t be caught. The rest of us must raise our game all the time.”

Despite missing out on IRN-BRU Cup glory, Kearney has guided the Bannsiders to a top four place.

“It’s been a good season and we have progressed,” he added. “It’s a nice experience to be on Sky and it’s vital that we finish the campaign strongly if we want to have any chance of securing some European action. We’ll fight for every point that is left.”

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