Belfast Telegraph

Quality of title rivals frightening, admits Coleraine's Oran Kearney

 

Big battle: Oran Kearney can see major title competition
Big battle: Oran Kearney can see major title competition

By Alex Mills

Oran Kearney has described the opposition his Coleraine side face in the Danske Bank Premiership title race as "frightening".

The Bannsiders are the team to catch and travel to face basement side Warrenpoint Town today.

Despite it being a top versus bottom clash with only one outcome expected by most observers, Kearney will warn his troops they mustn't drop down a gear.

There seems little prospect of that after a scintillating, unbeaten start to the campaign.

If - and it's a big if - Linfield win their three games in hand they will be a point above Coleraine, but the Bannsiders are motoring along nicely.

Former Blues midfielder Kearney, however, feels the competition at the top of the table has never been tougher.

"It's crazy," said the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Manager of the Month for October. "Glentoran and Cliftonville have really impressed me. Cliftonville have gone way under the radar and they are getting on with their business and have been fantastic.

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"I've noticed a massive difference with Glentoran in terms of the new regime there.

"Larne will only get stronger and Cliftonville and Ballymena boosted their coffers by getting through a round in Europe. The competition is frightening and everyone has the ability to beat each other."

Coleraine are certainly brimming with confidence after conquering Linfield and Crusaders home and away.

"I felt a year is a long time in football and the Coleraine I left and the one I walked back into were obviously different," added Kearney, who had a short stint at St Mirren. "With that, it was probably a bit of a gamble. There were players there who were with me before and there were players who weren't.

"It was a big squad, which I wasn't fussed on either, so it was a case of could we get players out and could we get a real good integration of the squad where everyone felt their worth and get things moving again and thankfully we've been able to do that."

Kearney kept St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership before returning to Coleraine. Saints chiefs wanted him to live in Scotland and reduce the travelling from Northern Ireland but the 41-year-old said his family arrangements had no impact on the job he was doing.

"I was away from my family and there was a lot made about it but it had zero issue on the outcome or on us," he added.

"Myself and Lauren discussed it before I signed a three-year contract and we were well aware what we were stepping into. Nothing had changed with regard to that and we had a way of making it work and the family enjoyed coming over to Scotland."

Warrenpoint have lost 14 of their 15 league encounters.

Point boss Barry Gray said: "It's all about myself and the management team trying to familiarise ourselves with a group of players we know nothing about."

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