Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney reveals the changes made that helped bring Irish Cup success

By Graham Luney

Oran Kearney felt his players played the football match this time and refused to be swept away by the hype and occasion of an Irish Cup Final.

The Bannsiders chief opted for a different, low key pre-match routine which worked a treat and after the 3-1 success over Cliftonville he was also keen to dedicate the victory to his loyal chairman Colin McKendry who was stood by the boss during hard times.

McKendry and the Bannsiders board have now been handsomely rewarded for keeping the faith and, following last season's disappointing loss to Linfield in the May showpiece, they got it right this time.

"I spoke to Colin about the build-up and we learned lessons from last year," admitted Kearney.

"On the day of the final we didn't close out the club the way we should have done with fans mingling with players before leaving.

"This time we trained at Coleraine university twice with not a sinner near us and this morning we met at Coleraine Rugby Club away from the Showgrounds, loaded up quietly and didn't stop at the Showgrounds en route to here.

"This year was about playing a football match, not the occasion and possibly last year the occasion was partly to blame.

"Colin in particular has been an absolute rock for me and I'm delighted for him, he's walking on air and that trophy is as much for him as anyone.

"He deserves it because he had the presence of mind and fortitude when other people didn't to stick by me and he gets his reward plus the sleeping giant that is the north coast. The fans are backing us and with that win today, hopefully we will have another few thousand through the gates."

Kearney, who raced into the penalty area to celebrate Eoin Bradley's goal to seal the victory at the death, now views his first trophy as a manager as the start of a special chapter on Coleraine's history.

"This is a massive catalyst for us to go to the next level," he added.

"Credit to the lads, Cliftonville started the game well and the Coleraine side of last year might have crumbled but that experience stood them in good stead.

"This season wouldn't have been a success unless you put something on the table.

"You don't get what you deserve all the time.

"The release of emotion was nothing like I've felt before in my life.

"A manager looks after everyone and it was the stress of wanting to deliver something we couldn't last year.

"I lost myself and I apologised to the referee. I found myself on the pitch celebrating and then I thought why am I here?"

One of the first supporters on the pitch at the finish to celebrate with the team was their number one fan, actor Jimmy Nesbitt. "This is brilliant not just for the club, but for the town that was in the doldrums. It lifts the whole area," he said.

Striker Eoin Bradley who slotted in the third goal to kill off the contest was bursting with pride.

"I hadn't run for 10 minutes before the late chance so there was always a possibly it would come," said Bradley who also won the prize with Glenavon in 2016 before losing last year's final with the Bannsiders.

"Thankfully there was a chance and I was able to put it in the net. All I could think of was just out it in the end and look what it means to everyone here."

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