Belfast Telegraph

'I really did suffer': Oran Kearney opens up on adjusting to life after St Mirren departure


Golden touch: Coleraine boss Oran Kearney weaving his magic for the Bannsiders
Golden touch: Coleraine boss Oran Kearney weaving his magic for the Bannsiders
Oran with St Mirren goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky after the play-off final win over Dundee United
Kearney with his Manager of the Month award

By Graham Luney

Oran Kearney says he's recovered from the summer heartbreak of his departure from St Mirren to emerge a stronger person and better manager for the experience.

Kearney kept the Paisley side in the Scottish Premiership last term after a play-off win over Dundee United but his spell at the club came to an end in June after almost 10 months in charge.

The 41-year-old had agreed a three-year deal after leaving Coleraine but now he's back in the north west weaving his magic at the Showgrounds again.

The Bannsiders were top of the Premiership when Kearney embraced a new challenge in Scotland and they are now back on top with him in the dugout again.

As he collected his Manager of the Month award for October, the former Linfield and Ballymena United midfielder reflected on how the rollercoaster ride at St Mirren has changed him as a manager and person.

"To a man, the players have been exceptional," said Kearney.

"They probably didn't realise it but July was a particularly tough month.

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"I took the job in early July but I really suffered in July. I hope the players never saw that but I really did suffer.

"I hope I put on a good enough mask or a brave enough face not to see that but it was a really tough month to try to get used to my 'new' life again, or my old life but my new one.

"With every week that's passed it's been a lot smoother. And getting back to the school has been good because I need to be on the go, stimulated and doing things.

"There was too much free time and it's been good to get back to the hustle and bustle.

"Hopefully, I am better in football terms but also as a person because the whole period is probably worth years of experience for me in relation to the early stages, middle stages, right up to keeping them in the league.

"With those experiences as a person and the whole journey and obstacles I had to overcome, I've no choice but to hopefully be a better person and manager for it.

"I wouldn't approach anything differently. The way I managed got me to Scotland in the first place and I didn't change anything when I got there.

"You hear players talking about full-time football and it's such a big change, but the ball is the same, the goals are the same and the players have two legs. You are still dealing with people and I could name you a number of managers in our league who would have no problem working in Scotland or England because they have the skills and qualities."

Kearney, inevitably, will face questions when jobs arise, particularly in Scotland where Hearts and Hibernian have vacancies.

"The opportunity to go back wasn't discussed and it's not something that I have been pining for or looking for since I came back," he added.

"I suppose if last year's experience in Scotland taught me anything, without being big-headed, I knew I could do a job like that and cope in that environment.

"Does it mean I'm unhappy? No. Does it mean I want to get away again? No. I could easily be Coleraine manager for the next five, 10 or 15 years and I'd be delighted with that as it's a great club with great fans.

"When I played the dream was to play in England but I never got a sniff, I never got close at any age.

"When you become a manager your aspirations have to be the same, to manage at the highest possible level and that's not being disrespectful to where you're at. I'm delighted to be here but it's nice to have aspirations too. Players are like that, if you look at what Gavin Whyte has done why would you not dream and try to reach for the stars? You expect that from everyone.

"But the 'right club' for you thing is strange. The Stoke job was about 30 games and who's to say what is the right job or club. It's hard to have that utopia or that perfect club."

Coleraine host Glenavon tomorrow with confidence sky high as the only unbeaten side in the Premiership clocked up six wins in October.

"I hope no one is getting carried away," he added. "I keep ramming it home that it is one game at a time but we've played just a third of the league. I've seen it hundreds of times in leagues all over the world when teams make a good start and falter away and don't even see Christmas.

"I'm a realist but a lot of the players from my last spell are still there, as are the staff, and that makes it an easier sell to understand it's one game at a time now."

And does he still enjoy the mad world of football management?

"I still put myself under immense pressure," he added. "Because I managed last season at Celtic Park and Ibrox, which were unbelievable feelings, I am still nervous on a Saturday and still have butterflies.

"It does become a job at times and it's all about nailing the three points but you try to enjoy it as much as possible."

• The NI Football League has announced the appointment of Jonny Madill as a new independent board member.

The Northern Ireland man is currently a partner and sports lawyer in the Sports Group at Sheridans, a leading sports, media and entertainment law firm in London.

NIFL's Board of Directors for the 2019-2020 season are Brian Adams (Ards, chairman), Gerard Lawlor (Cliftonville, vice-chairman), Andrew Conn (Linfield Ladies), Colin Kennedy (Independent), Jonathan Madill (Independent), Colin McKendry (Coleraine), Aidan Murphy (Armagh City), Colin Russell (Knockbreda).

Coleraine vs Glenavon

Danske Bank Premiership

Coleraine Showgrounds, Tomorrow, 3pm

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