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Coleraine are Irish League's best team by a mile: Glenavon boss Hamilton

Glenavon 0-0 Coleraine


Coleraine boss Oran Kearney

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney

Gary Hamilton

Gary Hamilton

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton has insisted that Coleraine's Oran Kearney deserves to be named manager of the season despite losing out on the title to Crusaders.

Hamilton was speaking after his side drew 0-0 with Bannsiders at Mourneview Park on Saturday as the Crues celebrated lifting the Gibson Cup 40 miles away in Ballymena.

Coleraine may have only lost once in 38 matches, but in Lurgan that impressive statistic meant little with Crusaders finishing just ahead of them at top of the table after an exhilarating championship battle in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Kearney, a classy individual, was keen to praise Crusaders, stating that the "league table never lies".

He even sent a text to Crues boss Stephen Baxter to congratulate him and his team with the party in full swing at the Showgrounds.

Hamilton, whose side finished a commendable third after 38 league games, was at pains to point out that he felt Coleraine deserved to be champions, outlining his belief that Kearney has been the best boss this term even though Baxter led his side to title glory and the Co Antrim Shield.

The Glenavon manager insisted that his comments were not down to the fact that a Coleraine win in this weekend's Irish Cup final against Cliftonville would mean the Lurgan Blues qualify automatically for the Europa League rather than going through the lottery of the play-offs - though Crues and Reds fans will make up their own minds on that.

"I was gutted for Oran because I feel a team that only loses once in a league season deserves to win the title," said Hamilton.

"For me, Coleraine have been the best team this season by a mile.

"People say the best teams win the league but this is probably a unique season where the best team hasn't won the title.

"The good thing for them is they have an opportunity to win a trophy which their season deserves.

"People may say I'm saying that because we are relying on that to qualify for Europe and of course that is a factor but, personally speaking, I would love to see Oran get a trophy and if he doesn't get manager of the year then the football writers don't know too much about football.

"To get to an Irish Cup final and to bring the league title to the last game of the season when you are not expected to at the start of the season is one hell of an achievement."

Hamilton stated that his team would have finished third long before the last day of the campaign but for "refereeing decisions".

He added: "We have compiled a DVD of 17 stonewall penalties that we haven't been given this season. Seventeen penalty kicks can add a heck of a lot of points on to your tally."

Kearney was more interested in his players than any officiating that may have cost his side over the course of the campaign and giving them a couple of days to recover from the disappointment of losing the title.

He has to lift them now for the Irish Cup final and says the Coleraine fans will play a massive part at Windsor Park on Saturday.

"We have doubled our support this season and we will take a huge crowd with us to the final," said Kearney.

"They have been brilliant for us throughout and I know they can inspire us one more time."

Belfast Telegraph