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Editor's Viewpoint

Stunning European exploits of Kearney's Coleraine footballers is proof that the beautiful game can make dreams come true



The Coleraine players celebrate after the match in the changing room

The Coleraine players celebrate after the match in the changing room

The Coleraine players celebrate after the match in the changing room

It is often claimed that sport, and particularly team sport, can provide a parallel narrative to life itself. Anyone in doubt should ask Oran Kearney, the manager of Coleraine FC. He is most probably on cloud nine this weekend after his team's utterly stunning Europa League victory over the 15-times Slovenian champions NK Maribor.

It was a truly astonishing win by the Bannsiders, with the tie at 1-1 after extra time, but Oran's side went through 5-4 on penalties.

To put this in context, Maribor were in the European Champions League with major sides like Liverpool and Sevilla only two years ago, and were strongly fancied to progress to the next round.

Apart from the kudos of winning, there are significant financial rewards for Coleraine. The Thursday heroics brought £232,000 to the club, thus bringing their European winnings so far this summer to an eye-watering £644,000.

The coach will discover on Monday who his second qualifying-round opponents will be, and as Coleraine are unseeded, they could play Tottenham, AC Milan, or Rangers.

Oran has already experienced many of the highs and lows of his sport, having guided Coleraine to an Irish Cup and a runners up place in the Premiership before a torrid 10 months in charge of St Mirren.

He returned to manage Coleraine where he has been since July last year.

It is all the more remarkable that he has achieved so much while teaching full-time at the Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle, where he was back behind his desk yesterday.

Football, like all sport, is still taking tentative steps to recovery, post-pandemic, and the shackled turnstiles and empty stands remain stark reminders of the long journey ahead.

However, so long as football can provide transcendental nights like the one in Maribor, there is still hope for the truly beautiful game, and for those who love it.

Football can still make fairytales come true.

Belfast Telegraph