Why Coleraine's surge to top the table doesn't surprise me, explains Oran Kearney
When Oran Kearney arrived back through the gate of the Coleraine Showgrounds on July 3, few could have predicted his side would sit atop the Danske Bank Premiership table, albeit only on goal difference, under four months later.
After his departure to take the helm at St Mirren, the Bannsiders had limped from a challenging position into a sixth placed finish last season.
Gone were the likes of Ciaron Harkin, Darren McCauley, Brad Lyons and Stephen Dooley; key cogs in the Irish Cup winning machine of 2018.
Despite it all, however, Kearney retained his trademark optimism.
"I'm not saying we're surprised (to be top of the table)," he told the BBC after Saturday's 2-0 win over Crusaders.
"There's a big cohort of the team I left here. Yes a couple of big names have left but the likes of Ben Doherty I had tried to sign and Jamie Glackin too, who I spoke to before he went to Crusaders.
"They're two players I've had a look at in the past and now they're in the squad after Rod (McAree) signed them. They have both helped us kick on, as has Aaron Jarvis who has really bought into it as well.
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"Then behind that, we have the players who were here before. The ability to know how we go about our business has been an easier transition for everybody because it's been that way for a long time.
"We're delighted with it. One swallow doesn't make a summer. We're not getting carried away but it's good to be in the mix of a highly competitive league."
This was the Bannsiders' second win of the season over their old rivals Crusaders while they've already eased past Linfield as well.
"The last time we played Crusaders it could have gone to nine points of a difference," he said. "We've clawed our way back with a couple of important wins away to Carrick and home to Warrenpoint to try and close that gap. Today gave us an opportunity to draw level.
"We're delighted with the performance and the three points. It was typical of the games we've had against Crusaders in recent years - tight and cagey at times.
"There was nothing spared by either side and sometimes it just takes a little moment to separate the games. Eoin Bradley does really well for the first penalty and Ben has a great run for the second.
"Anything can happen in the Irish League at any given moment and that's why the second penalty was so important.
"It took everybody to stand up with a big performance to get the win."
Next up for Coleraine is another test of their title credentials, when Linfield arrive at the Showgrounds on Saturday.
Belfast Telegraph Digital