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Why Irish League teams are facing a pre-season headache, explains Coleraine boss Oran Kearney

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Oran Kearney. Credit: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Oran Kearney. Credit: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Oran Kearney. Credit: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney has admitted that with other leagues starting weeks earlier than the Irish Premiership this season, top-flight clubs may be in the far from ideal position of playing each other to build up to the new domestic campaign.

Due to the congested nature of last term, the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) decided they would delay kick-off in their top division until August 28, though the Championship begins on August 7 and Premier Intermediate League commences on August 17.

Having been knocked out of the Europa Conference League on Thursday night by Bosnian outfit Velez Mostar, the Bannsiders can turn their attention to domestic matters and for Kearney what promises to be an odd pre-season.

He said: “It’s hard because for some reason the other leagues from Championship down all kick-off well before us so I don’t know what we as Premiership teams are going to do for friendlies when the rest of the country are playing football. We could play each other like teams eight, nine, 10 and 11 in the fixture list but that’s not ideal.”

Kearney is content with his squad, saying that any new arrivals to the Showgrounds from here on in would have to be capable of competing for a first-team spot straight away.

On the European exit there was a sense of what might have been. Having lost 2-1 away last week, Coleraine were in a promising position at the break in the return leg at Mourneview Park, leading 1-0 thanks to the lively Matthew Shevlin. However, the same player missed a big opportunity early in the second half to turn the screw.

Not long after, Brandao de Souza’s deflected goal for the visitors was a sickener for the Bannsiders with Nemanja Andusic netting a classy effort later on to earn Velez a 2-1 success on the night and 4-2 triumph on aggregate.

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“We knew it was the hardest tie we could have had in the draw. The quality of the league in Bosnia is really good and we knew we would be up against it,” reflected Kearney.

“We could have had nothing to play for in the second leg but the shift the boys put in given the travel, sleep, food and the heat and home crowd in the first game was fantastic and we had something to shoot for in the return.

“We had them on the ropes but you need the stars to align and everything to fall into place.”


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