Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine set to swoop after Oran Kearney leaves St Mirren


Could Oran Kearney return to Coleraine?
Could Oran Kearney return to Coleraine?

By Steven Beacom

Oran Kearney's dramatic spell in the Scottish Premiership is over. He can leave St Mirren with his head held high after saving them from relegation.

Pride won't be the only emotion he will be feeling today as he reflects on an eventful nine months with the Paisley outfit.

There will be disappointment for the ex-Coleraine boss at the way in which his time in the full-time spotlight finished following a fall-out with the chairman Gordon Scott, but by the same token also relief that what was turning into an acrimonious saga has now ended.

Once their relationship broke down last week, there was no way back. Scott has a 51% share in the club and, effectively, what he says goes, as previous managers know all too well.

Kearney and Scott never had the warm, fuzzy relationship the former enjoyed with Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry.

It reached crisis point at a meeting last week when Kearney's desire to continue commuting back and forth to Northern Ireland was discussed.

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Last season, the 40-year-old had been returning home twice a week to spend time with his wife Lauren and their two children.

Kearney was certain the trips did not impact on his job. Keeping St Mirren in Scotland's top flight would suggest he was right.

Scott felt, however, it would be better for the club if Kearney stayed in Scotland on a permanent basis. There was never going to be a meeting of minds on the issue, leading to Kearney's inevitable departure.

At the weekend, Kearney had been told not to turn up for the club's first day of pre-season training yesterday when behind the scenes lawyers were drawing up an exit settlement.

News from Paisley last night confirmed Kearney had left by 'mutual consent'.

Just last month he was being cheered off the pitch at St Mirren by jubilant supporters after the Buddies had beaten Dundee United on penalties in a play-off to maintain their status amongst Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen.

That was an emotional afternoon for St Mirren fans, who for most of the season feared that their team would go down. They saw the manager as a miracle worker.

Kearney's remit was to avoid relegation when he took over last September having inspired Coleraine to Irish Cup glory just a few months before. In that same season, they almost beat Crusaders to the title.

He found the going tough in the early months but, after bringing in new players in January, St Mirren ended the season in splendid fashion, moving away from bottom place and the automatic drop to 11th and a play-off.

In the run-up to the two legs with Dundee United there was speculation linking him with a move back to Coleraine, who had sacked Rodney McAree and were hunting for a new boss.

Kearney had decided, however, that he wanted to give it another crack with the Buddies against Neil Lennon's Bhoys, Steven Gerrard's Rangers and the rest.

He organised a friendly with Coleraine for this Saturday and was lining up new players. He had also made travel arrangements to commute between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Now he is a free agent and with Coleraine yet to appoint a successor to McAree over six weeks since his departure, Bannsiders fans are hoping that Kearney 'comes home'.

Incidentally, Coleraine players start pre-season training tonight, with coaches William Murphy, Trevor McKendry and Paul Owens putting them through their paces.

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry said: "If Oran, as a former manager of Coleraine who had built something special at the club, became available, it would be totally remiss of me not to approach him. He knows the club and many of his players are still there.

"As a person running a business at Coleraine, I know how good a manager Oran is and also what a good person he is.

"I would assume we would not be the only people looking to talk to him simply because of his ability and his reputation.

"What he has done at St Mirren, in my opinion, has been astonishing. Personally, I would love Oran back at our club but we will see what happens."

Addressing rumours Coleraine had hoped Kearney would depart St Mirren all along, McKendry stated that wasn't correct, pointing out that earlier this month they approached Dundalk to speak to their assistant Ruaidhri Higgins only to be denied permission by the League of Ireland outfit.

"People have said our plan the whole time was to wait for Oran. It genuinely has not been like that at all," said McKendry.

"We felt that Oran would be staying with St Mirren and I was sure he would continue his outstanding work there. That's why we looked at Ruaidhri Higgins, but obviously things have changed."

Belfast Telegraph


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