Belfast Telegraph

Securing a Euro adventure would make Coleraine's campaign a real success: McAree

 

Rodney McAree
Rodney McAree

By Steven Beacom

Coleraine boss Rodney McAree is the first to admit that this season has been a testing one for the club. It's an honest assessment. So, too, his belief that should the Bannsiders qualify for Europe it will represent a successful campaign.

To achieve that, McAree's men must overcome Cliftonville at Solitude in tonight's European play-off semi-final and then earn victory in the weekend decider.

Both teams changed manager during the season with Paddy McLaughlin coming in for Cliftonville in February after Barry Gray departed while McAree arrived at the Showgrounds in September when Oran Kearney moved to St Mirren.

It's just over a year since Coleraine defeated Cliftonville in the Irish Cup final. A week later, the Reds put that disappointment behind them to beat Glentoran in the European play-off crunch.

"It is a huge game. We potentially have two massive matches and if you win both of them it can be very lucrative for the club which helps going into the following season in terms of budget and everything else. If we won the play-offs it would become a very good season," said McAree.

"To date it has been a tough season for everyone involved at Coleraine because it has been a period of transition.

"The players started the season with a manager (Kearney) that won the Irish Cup last season and were very close to winning the league so it has been a big year of transition. It would turn out to be a successful one if we were to qualify for Europe.

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"Like us, Cliftonville have big game players and first and foremost we have to go there and be well set up without the ball because we know the threat they possess up top with Joe Gormley, Rory Donnelly and Ryan Curran.

"It's a tough ask but we have a lot of quality within our squad and we will go into the match with positivity because we believe we can beat anybody on our day. Ultimately we have to make sure we go out and perform."

Coleraine have been inconsistent this term and won't be helped tonight by the loss of Stephen Lowry and Aaron Burns to injury.

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