Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Coleraine can challenge for years now that we've proved Irish Cup point, says O'Donnell

By Gareth Hanna

One year ago Stephen O'Donnell ended the season heartbroken.

The Institute captain had just led his team within a whisker of promotion to the top tier, only to be denied by Carrick Rangers in a play-off.

Little did he know that, just 12 months on, he'd be the man to lift the Irish Cup for Coleraine after a 3-1 final victory over Cliftonville.

"It's an absolute dream come true," he said. "It's hard to describe the feeling when Skinner (Eoin Bradley) scored the third goal and we knew the cup was ours.

"Then going up to lift it in front of the fans, who were brilliant again, it was just unbelievable."

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Stephen O'Donnell lifted the trophy as Coleraine landed their sixth ever Irish Cup title.

When Bradley's injury-time goal hit the net, the celebrations began with even Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney invading the pitch to join the goal-scorer.

"I never managed to make it the length of the pitch - I just couldn't get that far - but the celebrations were brilliant," laughed centre-half O'Donnell. "As soon as he scored, we felt it was game over. The celebrations were brilliant, the fans were outstanding."

Amongst the wider Irish League family, there's a feeling it's a deserved success for the side that lost only one Premiership game all season and still didn't end up with the Gibson Cup.

"I think if we had finished the season without a trophy, it would have been very harsh in terms of how outstanding we've been all season," O'Donnell said. "From last year, we felt we had unfinished business in the Irish Cup.

"We wanted to prove a point and reward everyone at the club - the board, fans and backroom staff - everyone who has worked so far and now we've done it."

With the first senior trophy of the Kearney era under their belt, there's growing optimism that Coleraine could kick on even further.

"When I joined the club in the summer, there was a real sense of momentum from the second half of last season," O'Donnell continued. "We've carried that into this year and we feel as though we're a club on the way up.

"I said before and I'll say it again, Coleraine's the type of club that needs to be at the top end of the league, in Irish Cup finals and in Europe every year. Hopefully we've laid the foundations for that for years to come."

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