Belfast Telegraph

Past heartache a spur for Bannsiders: Kearney

By Billy Weir

Oran Kearney hopes the pain of League Cup semi-final defeat last year can be turned into the ultimate last four elation when Coleraine tackle Ballymena United this evening.

It is the mouth-watering tie of the semi stages, arguably the biggest derby clash between the bitter rivals in living memory, and defeat by Ards last season at the same stage is driving on the Bannsiders boss.

"Last year is at the forefront of my mind and it's one I've driven home to the players in pre-season, a month ago, three months ago, last March and whenever else," he admitted.

"For me, as much as it's history now and it'll never change, hopefully we have learned from that experience and can put it into practice."

Howard Beverland, now with Crusaders, missed that clash with then-Championship outfit Ards when Coleraine threw away a two-goal lead before losing on penalties.

The loss of Beverland for that game through suspension has had a massive impact on Kearney's preparations, with much-changed teams to avoid a repeat of the loss of key personnel, but conversely contributing to defeats against Cliftonville and Glenavon.

It is a high-risk strategy, and one that will be forgotten about if Coleraine can beat their rivals to book a final berth against either Glenavon or Carrick Rangers.

"A semi-final is special full stop but when you add in the derby, and I'm sure everyone in Ballymena will say exactly the same, it adds that extra spice," said Kearney.

"Lots of people would have preferred it to be the final and I think when you get to the final of any competition the magnitude becomes even bigger.

"The ground has been good to us and we've had good performances there. Tuesday will be its own animal, we are in inverted commas our worst form of the season with three defeats in a row.

"I don't think any run of form going into it will have any massive difference, it's very hard to call. I don't think there will be a massive amount between the two teams.

"We're just keen that, number one, we get our best team out and hopefully we will, and number two, we get the response that we expect and a big performance."

As if the plot needed any more thickening, the match sees pupil taking on master, the boot on the other foot for schoolteacher Kearney as he goes up against his former Linfield boss David Jeffrey.

Kearney added: "I'm not sure when the whistle goes what the two of us can do. He'd be the first to admit that we're a privileged fan, we can get a better view of the game and can shout a bit. They might hear us more than a fan but bar a substitution or two I think the work is done prior to that."

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