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David Healy and Oran Kearney are great for the local game, says O'Neill

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has hailed Irish Cup final managers David Healy and Oran Kearney, insisting their success is good for the local game.

O'Neill will attend Saturday's decider at Windsor Park between Linfield and his old club Coleraine and is expecting an exciting encounter as the Blues seek another trophy to add to the league title and County Antrim Shield captured this season, while the Bannsiders are determined to get their hands on the Irish Cup for the first time since 2003 having already qualified for Europe.

O'Neill said: "What I'm really pleased about in relation to Linfield and Coleraine reaching the final is how great it is to see two young managers doing well. I think that is good for the Irish League.

"I was delighted for David that he won the league title. The Linfield job is difficult and he has persevered with it and is now getting his rewards.

"I remember David phoning me before he took the Linfield job because he was coming into the IFA structure to work with the youth squads.

"The Linfield job came up and I encouraged him to go for it and I'm pleased at what he has achieved since. He has built a good team and a relatively young team and has done exceptionally well.

"Oran Kearney has also done a fantastic job at Coleraine. The board there deserve a lot of credit because they stuck by him when results weren't going the way they hoped.

"I think Coleraine realised what a good young manager they had and Oran has certainly delivered.

"I'm looking forward to the final. Coleraine are capable of beating Linfield on their day and David will know that better than anyone. I'm expecting an exciting match," added the Northern Ireland boss, who is on the shortlist for the vacant manager's job at Norwich.

O'Neill started his career at Coleraine and in his latter days as a player signed for Glentoran. He played for the Glens in the 2003 Irish Cup final when the Bannsiders stopped Roy Coyle's men completing a domestic clean sweep.

"It was my first year back in the Irish League and we were trying to win everything. We won the league convincingly plus the League Cup and County Antrim Shield," recalled O'Neill.

"Glentoran had never done a clean sweep in their history so it was a big match. I was sent off leading up to the Cup final and didn't start the final. Roy Coyle brought me on at half-time when we were 1-0 down.

"I remember it was a terrible day with a gale force wind blowing straight down the pitch. Coleraine had the wind in the first half and we went behind to a Jody Tolan goal. In the second half we battered them. It was one of those games had we equalised we would have gone on to win. It was a big disappointment because to win the four trophies would have been massive.

"We won the league the last game before the split and our games after that meant nothing and it affected us going into the final. We weren't prepared right mentally or physically and on the day we didn't play anywhere near to what we were capable of."

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