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Coleraine's grit and determination can spring another European surprise against Motherwell, says O'Donnell


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Stephen O’Donnell

Stephen O’Donnell

Stephen O’Donnell

Coleraine skipper Stephen O'Donnell believes a new mature Bannsiders side can give Motherwell a real battle on Thursday night.

Oran Kearney's men are at home to the Scottish Premiership side in the Europa League second qualifying round.

Coleraine secured a shock penalty shoot-out win over NK Maribor of Slovenia to make it through to face Motherwell who defeated Glentoran in the last round.

After a victory over San Marino outfit La Fiorita in their preliminary round tie, the Bannsiders are now just one victory away from making history by becoming the first Irish side to win three European rounds in the same season.

Motherwell have endured a disappointing start to the season but they did conquer Glentoran 5-1 in the Europa League and also secured their first win of the league season with a 1-0 home win over St Johnstone on Saturday.

But O'Donnell believes the north-west men have developed into a resilient force on the continent. The 28-year-old made his debut in a 7-0 defeat to Haugesund in the Europa League in 2017.

"I think we showed we have learned as we had plenty of grit, determination and discipline to go and get a result in Slovenia," he said. "There has definitely been progression and it shows the ambition that we aren't just simply happy to qualify for Europe, but we want to get results."

O’Donnell, who joined the club from Institute, added: “I think the first year we played in Europe, we were just happy to be there.

“However the year after we wanted to prove a point and we got a draw in Serbia and were unlucky in the home leg.

“Those experiences for the core group of players who had been there before helped us in the game against La Fiorita to remain composed and understand what European football is all about.

“To go and get the result against Maribor was putting all those positive and negative experiences together in terms of learning of how to stay in a game and what not to do when playing against a top European side.”

Linfield, meanwhile, face Maltese champions Floriana at Windsor Park on Thursday.

The Blues’ Big Two rivals, Glentoran, have announced that Paddy McClean has penned a new three-year contract.

The 24-year-old former Derry City centre-back has become a firm favourite since his arrival in east Belfast in July last year.

McClean was instrumental in the Glens’ Irish Cup success last season and caught the eye with a stunning overhead kick winner in a Danske Bank Premiership victory over Larne at Inver Park in mid-October.

It’s another shrewd piece of business – and sign of intent – by Mick McDermott, who has strengthened his squad over the summer by snapping up Northern Ireland international Luke McCullough, Jamie McDonagh – a former Derry team-mate of McClean – Rory Brown, ex-Newcastle United man Gael Bigirimana, Gibraltar international goalkeeper Dayle Coleing and the versatile Dale Gorman.

McClean, brother of Stoke City and Republic of Ireland international James, admits “it didn’t really take much convincing” when he agreed an initial two-year deal. His new contract will keep him at Glentoran until 2024.

McClean stresses that joining Glentoran helped rescue his career after an injury-plagued period at the Brandywell.

“I had a tough year and needed to get away,” he says. “When Glentoran came in, it was a no-brainer. The club have been great to me and thankfully I was able to repay them a little by helping win the Irish Cup.”

Belfast Telegraph