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Oran Kearney relives 'biggest high' of 2018 and explains why Irish Cup will always have a special place in Coleraine hearts

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Emotional: Oran Kearney celebrates Coleraine’s Cup win of 2018

Emotional: Oran Kearney celebrates Coleraine’s Cup win of 2018

©INPHO/Photosport/Stephen Hamil

Emotional: Oran Kearney celebrates Coleraine’s Cup win of 2018

Few who witnessed it will forget the sight of the normally mild-mannered Oran Kearney running down the touchline like a scalded gazelle when Eoin Bradley wrapped up the Irish Cup in 2018.

That 3-1 win over Cliftonville was supposed to be Kearney's final swan song but, after a brief sabbatical at St Mirren, he is once again guiding the Bannsiders on what he hopes will be another run to glory.

Crusaders come to the Showgrounds in the tie of the round and, while there are unlikely to be any Jose Mourinho-type dashes down the touchline, he is hoping this year's competition will be another special one.

"Europe's brilliant and the joy of that experience, but it's about medals and winning things - it's as simple as that," he explained.

"For me, moving forward in this league it is going to get harder and harder to be up the table or in with the possibility of winning things.

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"Every moment counts. I look back to the journey I have been on at Coleraine, when I finished off with that Irish Cup win. Great memories and it has been such a catalyst for us as a club and the whole north coast, and, to this day, people still talk to you about Skinner's goal and everything that goes with it.

"It's moments like that that are as important. Europe is brilliant and at board level it is really important and the players get a huge amount of experience but, for me, it's about medals and wanting to compete.

"It was like an out of body experience and Ciaron Harkin was roaring at me and I sheepishly got off the pitch again!

"When I look back on it now, the journey we had been on as a club and I had been on, with all the tough times, that was probably the biggest high ever and I think with that, the Irish Cup will always have a place in my heart and is one where we want to go and do the same again."

This year's event has not had its sorrows to seek. Alongside Covid delays, teams pulling out means that, while some rivals can put their feet up tonight, Coleraine face a mammoth task against a Crusaders side who look to be finding form.

"It's nobody's fault, but the fact is that teams have pulled out and it's on a Tuesday night and you will have other teams who had byes. Rests are almost as important as matches," he added.

"We'll play Crusaders, which will be a hell of a tough match on Tuesday, it's not a case of being able to roll a squad and then we'll go into another monster fixture on Saturday which is the first of the split. I am a bit disappointed that not all teams will do that, which is not the fault of those teams but just the way it has permeated out."

And looking at tonight's visitors, he knows just what threat Stephen Baxter's men possess.

"They are a really dangerous outfit. A couple of weeks ago they went, in a blink if an eye, and hit six goals", he said.

"There are teams there with really savage firepower who, on their night, can really hurt you. The league's parked for a week, I've told the players that, and I'm sure it's the same for Crusaders."


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