Oran Kearney hails Coleraine's new defensive duo after 'complete performance' sets up Linfield win
Oran Kearney has hailed the composure and calmness of centre-backs Aaron Canning and Adam Mullan, insisting the pair have been key to Coleraine's success so far this season.
The duo excelled at Windsor Park on Tuesday night as the Bannsiders defeated Linfield 3-0 in the last four of the BetMcLean League Cup to set up a February 15 final with Crusaders.
Canning, who returned to the side after being suspended for Saturday's 2-0 league defeat at Institute, opened the scoring in the second half before Ben Doherty's cross deflected into the net off Josh Robinson, with Aaron Jarvis sealing a third victory of the season over the Blues for Kearney's side.
The Coleraine boss labelled the display as the most 'complete' on the road in his two spells in charge of the club and singled out defenders Mullan and Canning, who he clearly feels are the unsung heroes of a team second in the table behind Crusaders on goal difference and now with a Cup decider to savour.
"People talk about your strikers and attacking players, but Aaron and Adam are two who have had a profound impact on our performances and how we play as a team," said Kearney.
"As they showed against Linfield they give us a composure and calmness.
"It's no shock that when we got them both back in against Linfield that our performance level goes back up to what we would classify as acceptable.
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"Aaron has been brilliant. I remember when I became manager of Limavady and he left a week later at 16 years of age to go to Coleraine.
"It shows you the mindset that he had that he knew he could play top flight football. To be fair to him, he talked the talk then and he walked the walk because straight away he found himself in the team racking up a lot of appearances.
"He played right back in his early career and I always told him that centre-back would be the place for him. I had similar conversations with Adam Mullan.
"When you look back at the centre-backs we had in our great campaign a couple of seasons ago, Gareth (McConaghie) and Stevie (O'Donnell) were two real attacking defenders. Aaron and Adam are two opposites, they are readers of the game in the mould of Dougie (Stephen Douglas). They are the type of player three, four yards ahead of others and have been such a big part of our season to date."
On the performance as a whole, which came on the back of some poor displays in the league, Kearney added: "We came to Windsor earlier in the season and I don't think anyone could begrudge us our victory, and this time that away performance was complete and as good an away performance as I've had in my time at the club.
"I think that the level of control we had and maturity of our performance was really good."
• Glentoran are the latest side to strengthen their squad in the January transfer window by announcing the signing of midfielder Ciaran O'Connor.
The arrival of the Dundalk native is the latest boost to fans of The Oval club after the recent signing of Finn Harps captain Keith Cowan and the contract extensions of Paul O'Neill and Navid Nasseri.
23-year-old O'Connor joins as a free agent after leaving Warrenpoint Town in October and will link up with the squad on January 1.
The attacking midfielder lined out for Warrenpoint on 60 occasions, and also represented hometown club Dundalk, Bohemians and Derry City, while he also had a spell with Finn Harps.