Belfast Telegraph

Murphy: It's too early to even think about Coleraine capturing the title

By Steven Beacom

Coleraine coach William Murphy has declared it is far too early to say if the Bannsiders can mount a serious challenge for the Danske Bank Premiership title.

Suffice to say, though, the man who won countless championship medals as a player with Linfield is overjoyed by the club's perfect start to the season and is willing to state Oran Kearney's men have what it takes to claim a top three place again.

Last season Coleraine, a mixture of youth and experience, stormed to third spot with a superb finish which also took them to an Irish Cup final and into the Europa League.

They have carried that form on with four league victories on the trot.

Only Linfield are ahead of them on goal difference, though with the Blues involved in the IRN-BRU Cup, this afternoon offers Kearney's side an opportunity to jump to the head of the table by avoiding defeat at home to Glenavon.

There is plenty of incentive for Gary Hamilton's side too. If they win at the Showgrounds, the Lurgan outfit can go top.

Few are speaking about Glenavon as title contenders, however, unlike their opponents.

So, a straight question to straight talking Murphy, who aged 40 won the Irish Cup with Glenavon.

Can Coleraine lift the Gibson Cup this season?

"At the moment I would say no. Obviously we would want to win to win the league but when you consider the squads at Linfield and Crusaders, they are going to be very hard to match," is the reply.

He added: "We've only had four league games. If we are joint top with Linfield after 34 games, then we could talk about going for the title!

"There are a group of teams fighting for between third and sixth and we are definitely in there. We have a realistic chance of finishing in the top three.

"Qualifying for Europe was big for the club and fantastic for team spirit. That experience has really helped us early on this season and we want to continue that form, though we know facing Glenavon will be a big test. That's our only focus at the moment. They have had a very strong start to the season and are playing with confidence so we'll have to produce another good performance to get the result we are looking for."

Murphy has enjoyed watching Kearney grow as a boss. He worked under the legendary David Jeffrey when Linfield dominated Irish League football and sees some of the Ballymena manager's qualities in Kearney.

"Oran is a very knowledgeable guy and is unbelievable in the dressing room. I see some of David Jeffrey in him. I really do," said Murphy, one of the most respected defenders in the local game over the last 20 years.

"He is methodical with his team selection and his team talks.

"He talks extensively about the opposition, speaks about ourselves and what we can achieve and is very detailed in everything he does.

"He is very positive and the players respond to that.

"In terms of big decision making Oran talks things through fullly and he has shown at Coleraine that he makes the right calls, which was key to the success we enjoyed under David Jeffrey at Linfield.

"Being at a provincial club like Coleraine it is harder to attract players than it is for Belfast clubs, so you have to look at developing players and Oran has been brilliant at bringing in youngsters, giving them an opportunity and helping them improve."

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