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Ben Doherty's return to fitness is a huge boost for Coleraine's season finale, admits Oran Kearney


Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney admits it's a 'massive boost' having midfielder Ben Doherty back from injury for the business end of the season.

Having pushed David Healy's Linfield all the way in what has developed into an intriguing Danske Bank Premiership title race, the Bannsiders have dropped off the pace ahead of the final six games of the campaign.

April hasn't been a good month for Kearney and his boys. Held to a scoreless home draw by Glenavon, Coleraine then lost a top-of-the-table shoot-out against the Blues at Windsor Park.

Although they did pick up three points at Warrenpoint Town, successive draws home and away against Glentoran meant they slipped to third place - now 11 points adrift.

Kearney, however, has nothing but praise for his overworked team.

"Mentally and physically, the boys have given everything - eight games in 25 days is really tough going, it's been a crazy shift for them," said Kearney.

"Looking back, I think a draw was a fair result in both games against Glentoran. Both sides acquitted themselves well considering there was only a 72-hour turnaround (between games).

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"With them being full-time and us part-time, we probably felt we were at a little disadvantage in terms of recovery and so on. Credit to our lads, particularly from an energy aspect. I couldn't ask for any more from them.

"They have given me everything and they have given the club everything. We found ourselves in a position (against the Glens) that we had to show a bit of character after falling behind - that's something I feel we have in abundance."

With another big derby clash against Ballymena United at the Warden Street Showgrounds this afternoon, Kearney is thrilled to have midfield maestro Doherty back to full fitness - he was used as a second-half substitute against the Glens and set up Matthew Shevlin's equalising goal.

"It was a great cross in from Ben for the goal," added Kearney. "We know what Ben is all about and what he's got in the locker.

"He's had two injuries this season. He came back quickly from the first but broke down a couple of weeks later and was back in good time from that one as well.

"The urge was there to hand him a starting shirt against the Glens, but that was the selfish part of me. The player needed to be looked after first, rather than my own needs and interests.

"It was the right decision because we knew we had eight days for him to build up his fitness on the training ground before our next game.

"The key thing for us now is he is available for the run-in because we have a massive six games coming up, plus the Irish Cup."

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