Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine's 2018 Irish Cup success still driving desire for more, says Oran Kearney

 

Cup high: Coleraine boss Oran Kearney celebrates winning the Irish Cup in 2018
Cup high: Coleraine boss Oran Kearney celebrates winning the Irish Cup in 2018

By Ian Callender

It's the match of the day in the Irish Cup and Coleraine boss Oran Kearney is relishing what promises to be a massive occasion at Mourneview Park.

Between them, Coleraine and Glenavon have won three of the last six Irish Cup finals but the luck of the draw means only one of them can progress to the sixth round this year.

The Bannsiders should be the more confident, having won both Premiership games 4-0 and already negotiating four rounds of the League Cup, which included victories over Glentoran and Linfield, to reach next month's final.

And Kearney will use that first Cup run to motivate his players to do it all over again.

"We have one Cup final to look forward to and that is in the back of everyone's minds, so hopefully it keeps everybody ticking away with performances week by week and Saturday is massive and we will look forward to it," said Kearney, whose last memory of the Irish Cup was running down the Windsor Park touchline and onto the pitch to celebrate Coleraine's winning goal in the 2018 decider against Cliftonville.

"That was a special day and it's a great incentive to get the chance to do it again, but over the last few years Glenavon have a good history in the Cup and they're a good Cup side.

"We have had many a battle with them and I'm sure Saturday will be no different."

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Their Irish Cup clashes, however, have been few and far between. The last was the 2017 semi-final at the Ballymena Showgrounds which the Bannsiders won with an 89th-minute winner from James McLaughlin, only for Coleraine to suffer the disappointment of losing the final to Linfield.

Before that, you have to go back 14 years and a sixth round clash at today's venue which the Lurgan Blues won 3-0.

However, the omens are good for the winners of today's clash as those three previous wins have come in even years, with Glenavon lifting the Cup in 2014 and 2016 and Coleraine in 2018. So, 2020?

Both sides have been handicapped by injuries over the hectic festive programme - Kearney could name only five substitutes for the New Year's Day match with Carrick Rangers and one of them was 16-year-old Lewis Nevin - and the Coleraine manager is hoping that Ben Doherty has recovered to take his place today after being forced off against Linfield last Saturday.

Kearney, though, has Stephen Lowry and McLaughlin back, having served their one-match suspension for a fifth booking, and, as he puts it, "hopefully they'll be fresh and raring to go".

He added: "It was a backs-to-the-wall display against Carrick.

"I had to pick what was available and try to find a formation to work, so credit to the lads as it's never an easy place to get points and to win 2-0 was a good performance.

"Hopefully we can kick on, starting at Glenavon on Saturday.

"Unfortunately the previous results this season will count for nothing and we will have to start from scratch once again."

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