Coleraine can still flourish without key men, says boss Oran Kearney
Oran Kearney is confident Coleraine can shine on the European stage, even though two key men are missing the Europa League qualifier against FK Haugesund in Norway (6pm).
Lyndon Kane is recovering from a broken metatarsal suffered in Saturday's friendly against Derry City and could miss the start of the season while shot-stopper Chris Johns is sitting an exam.
Boss Kearney, a big supporter of switching the Irish League season to the summer months, must plot the downfall of a side currently eighth in the Norwegian Tippeligaen.
It's a tall order, particularly without Johns and Kane, but former Linfield midfielder Kearney says his players are relishing the challenge.
"It looks like Lyndon will miss the start of the season but hopefully he won't be out for too long," said Kearney. "We have no option but to go on without the boys but we have enough in terms of cover and experience.
"Lyndon has been a big player for us and you want to have your big players available but it's not to be.
"I'm more than happy with the quality we have in the squad and the boys will rise to the occasion. European football is a new experience for many of them and we plan to enjoy it. There is a great buzz around the club and the boys are up for this."
Coleraine will look to keep the tie alive for the second leg at the Showgrounds on July 6 but they will need to be resolute at the back against a team who are midway through their Scandinavian season.
Last month, Haugesund celebrated a 1-0 home win over champions Rosenborg so when on form they are formidable opponents.
"If the boys do their jobs, I am confident we will have something to fight for in the second leg," maintained Kearney.
"We know how strong Rosenborg are so these guys are no mugs.
"I think the bookies have them at about 1/7 and us at 14/1 so we are firmly the underdogs but that's fine with us, we know how difficult a challenge it is and how well we must perform."
Kearney feels it's "no fluke" Airtricity Premier League sides have enjoyed fantastic results in Europe during their summer seasons.
"I just don't want our teams walking away from games saying 'what if, what if we played this team in the middle of our season when we are sharper physically and mentally?'," he added.
"We need to move to summer football and start making more strides in European football.
"Other countries have switches to summer football and we should as well. The financial rewards now are a huge incentive for clubs.
"Until that happens, teams will try to produce unbelievable performances and results, including ourselves."
NIFL's current European co-efficient ranks them 47th out of 54 leagues, based on performance in Uefa competitions.
The IFA are pledging to support the clubs to achieve more in Europe.
In order to do that, the Association will work with NIFL to 'tweak' the season "so that clubs are playing in May and June. This will mean that clubs are in peak form and fitness ahead of their competitive matches."