Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine players are still fired up by last year's Irish Cup final humbling: Kearney

Bannsiders face tough test but boss Oran warns players are intent on exorcising demons of Irish Cup demolition

By Graham Luney

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney has warned Larne that his players are on a mission to exorcise the ghost of last season's Irish Cup decider.

The Bannsiders were rocked 3-0 by Linfield in last year's showpiece as Andy Waterworth stole the show with a hat-trick.

David Healy's men won comfortably and toasted a treble after already lifting the County Antrim Shield and Premiership title, but the boys from the north-west didn't do themselves justice in that May showdown.

The youthful Coleraine side came up against an experienced Blues team determined to make up for their final loss to Glenavon a year earlier, and now it's the Bannsiders' turn to right a few wrongs.

There was a feeling the occasion got to Kearney's men, but it was still a valuable learning exercise and, while some predicted the club's bubble would burst after that heartache, those critics are now tucking into humble pie.

Coleraine are the only club left who can secure a league and Cup double and, if they can beat Crusaders at Seaview on Tuesday night, the destiny of the league title will be in their hands with only four games left.

But first up for Kearney and co is Saturday's Irish Cup semi-final against Championship side Larne at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

The Inver Park men conquered Ballymena United in the quarter-finals and will fancy their chances of grabbing another Premiership scalp, but the Coleraine boss believes his players are in the mood to go one better in the tournament this year.

"I think the boys have a point and I always felt after last season's final that that is the way they should think," said Kearney.

"When you lose a match like that you have to use it as motivation going forward and I have sensed that these feelings are driving the players on. You want to get back and have another crack at it. There's the excitement of the build-up and the razzmatazz that goes with it, you want to be part of that again.

"You have the pre-match meal and the suits and it all adds to the special occasion, but it's all about winning the trophy and the players were disappointed last year.

"I think there's a big urge to go again, and credit to the players, they have fought their way to get to the semi-finals."

Larne, managed by Tiernan Lynch and embarking on a new chapter under the ownership of US-based millionaire Kenny Bruce, have never won this competition, finishing runner-up on five occasions, the last time was a 5-1 defeat to Portadown in 2005.

"There's no question is going to be a really tough test for us," added Kearney. "I think you only have to look at their win over Ballymena United to understand the threat they pose.

"When you play sides from the Championship you can expect to be really tested and our boys will not underestimate them in any way. That's not how we go about our business and Larne will be given the respect they deserve. This is a huge game for the football club and we want to reach another final.

"We have had them watched a few times and we will be well prepared for the game. They have a lot of experienced players including David McDaid who played for me and I also played alongside Tommy Stewart at Linfield.

"I think that shows you the calibre of player the club has been able to attract, and of course they have Marty Donnelly as well who had a very successful career with Cliftonville.

"We are fully aware of how tough a challenge this will be."

A few Coleraine fans might have one eye on Tuesday's huge league battle at Crusaders but Kearney is staying focused on this one.

"This is such a big game for the club that I can think about resting players for any other game," he added.

"We will be as strong as we can be because we know that is what it will take to have a chance of returning to the Irish Cup final."

Belfast Telegraph

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