Belfast Telegraph

Healy: I will never forget humiliation I felt after loss to Coleraine

Windsor wobble: Former Coleraine ace Darren McCauley enjoys the Bannsiders’ win at the home of Linfield in November
Windsor wobble: Former Coleraine ace Darren McCauley enjoys the Bannsiders’ win at the home of Linfield in November

By Steven Beacom

Linfield boss David Healy has revealed that he felt humiliated the last time Coleraine beat the Blues at Windsor Park.

He also pointed out that he will never forget his emotions that day no matter what he goes on to do as a manager.

Healy's comments come ahead of today's league meeting between the sides with Oran Kearney returning to the scene of his greatest triumph as Coleraine boss.

Last November when Rodney McAree was in charge of the Showgrounds outfit, they won 2-1 in a Danske Bank Premiership encounter at Windsor.

The result and performance had a lasting impact on Healy even though his side went on to win the title and exacted revenge on the Bannsiders three months later with a 3-2 comeback victory in Belfast which was key to the Blues finishing top of the table.

Fresh from leading Linfield into the play-off round of the Europa League, where they will face Qarabag from Azerbaijan in Thursday's first leg, Healy said: "We have a massive league game to focus on against Coleraine before we return to European action.

"They gave us a footballing lesson at Windsor last season. As long as I'm manager of any football club I will never forget how humiliated I was with the performance we put in that day.

"Thankfully we responded in the next home game with them and beat them coming from 2-0 down, which was important in us going on to become champions, but that defeat to Coleraine has stayed with me."

The last time Kearney was at Windsor he was running down the touchline celebrating Eoin Bradley's late goal which helped Coleraine beat Cliftonville 3-1 in the 2018 Irish Cup final.

Since then he took over at St Mirren, kept them in the Scottish Premiership and is now back with the Bannsiders with two points from their opening two games this term.

"We are wary that Coleraine are a good side and Oran is back so it will be a challenge, never mind the Qarabag game a few days later," added Healy.

"The European game will be great when it comes but we have a big league game first and as the manager hopefully I will pick the right 11 to go and win the match."

In Tuesday's 3-2 victory over FK Sutjeska in the Europa League, Healy had big hitters like Jimmy Callacher, Andy Mitchell, Joel Cooper, Jordan Stewart, Daniel Kearns and Andy Waterworth on the bench.

Many of them can expect to start today.

Whether the Linfield supporters can create the noise that inspired their players in the success against the Montenegro champions remains to be seen.

Healy was extremely appreciative of the efforts of the fans who drove his team on.

"The atmosphere was incredible. The backing was fantastic. We asked for a big support and a buoyant, excitable crowd and they certainly delivered," stated the Linfield boss.

"We have had decent atmospheres at Windsor, though it is sometimes hard with the size of the ground to really create a hostile environment.

"On Tuesday that was bordering on when we won the Irish Cup final versus Coleraine in 2017. It was a similar sort of atmosphere and the players were certainly lifted by the support and the numbers that came out. We want them to be right behind us again on Saturday."

The Blues have three points on the board after beating Institute last weekend. Coleraine enter the fixture on the back of draws with Cliftonville and Glentoran. On both occasions the Bannsiders were ahead and in control of the game. Bradley scored in each match and would love to be on target for Kearney at Windsor again.

James McLaughlin, who had been looking so good in pre-season, was sent off at The Oval and faces a suspension.

The Coleraine boss said: "We could be sitting with six points out of six but the reality is that we have two out of six so we have to try and put that right."

Kearney believes he has returned to a stronger Irish League than the one he left last season for St Mirren and the Scottish top flight.

"I think the league has changed since I've gone and come back," stated Kearney. "Football waits for nobody and the game has progressed. Obviously Larne have come up which is going to be interesting, there has been a takeover at Glentoran and Cliftonville are a lot stronger. I know it is early days but Paddy McLaughlin looks to be doing a good job there and you also have Linfield and Crusaders continuing to win trophies. There are a lot of clubs with their house in order.

"You look at the top six this season and there is going to be a hell of a fight and great competition.

"Next season Irish League sides will only be going for three European places, not four which I believe will make the competition even tougher. It is a stronger league than the one I have left. Teams are raising the bar and going full-time which makes it harder for everyone."

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