Coleraine will revel in hype of Premiership climax: Kearney
Manager Oran Kearney insists he won't attempt to wrap his Coleraine players in cotton wool ahead of the biggest eight days in the club's history.
The Bannsiders have been on a rollercoaster ride and now have their sights on a fantastic league and cup double. They'll end their Danske Bank Premiership campaign at Lurgan on Saturday, knowing it's win or bust against Gary Hamilton's Glenavon.
Of course, it's not quite as simple as that. Kearney will also be looking for a favour from his former boss and mentor David Jeffrey, whose Ballymena United side face a hungry Crusaders outfit looking to embark on their third title parade in four years.
Should the Crues reel in three points, the Bannsiders will have to settle for runners-up spot.
But it still doesn't end there because just one week later they will line out against Cliftonville in the Irish Cup final.
"What a brilliant way to end the season," beamed Kearney. "It's testament to the club and the group of players how far we have come. We intend to ride the wave. It's now sudden death - and we intend to give it a rattle.
"There is no other way to approach it. We'll be hyping it up as much as we can over the next few days. There is a heck of a buzz about the place and the players are relishing the challenge."
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Coleraine maintained their push at the top with a battling performance against Linfield at Windsor Park at the weekend, where they recovered from a two-goal deficit.
Kearney admits he attempted to protect his babes in the week leading up to the Blues game, but stressed that will not be the case this time.
"We protected the boys a bit ahead of going to Windsor Park and it backfired as we produced an awful first 45 minutes, one of our worst of the season, so we'll be going at it full blast this week," he added. "We struggled to get the ball down. I felt their two strikers (Achille Campion and Kurtis Byrne) were giving our two centre-backs a tough time and I felt it was the opposite at the other end of the pitch.
"The easy option is to start lumping balls up to Skinner (Eoin Bradley) because he is strong and has a physical presence. It wasn't working, so I withdrew him and told the lads he's not up there now, so I'm going to force you to keep the ball on the ground. Thankfully we were able to do that.
"I had a go at the boys at half-time, giving them both barrels. After the journey we have been on in this title race, to have it all wiped away with a poor 45 minutes was simply not on.
"So there is no point in trying to protect them at this stage. It's all or nothing. We have two cup finals to finish our season - and we'll throw the kitchen sink at it."
The only negative that came out of Saturday's game was an injury to Lyndon Kane, who will miss the next two matches after breaking a bone in his foot - the second such injury for the 21-year-old this season.
"It's sinking in now," said the defender. "It's the same bone on the same foot, my fifth metatarsal on my left foot, but it's a fresh break. It was a freak accident, nothing to do with the tackle.
"It's going to be hard watching the boys from the sidelines, but I firmly believe they can get the job done on both occasions.
"We are confident, there is belief in the changing room."