Belfast Telegraph

Oran Kearney's starlets continue to shine brightly


By Staff Reporter

Oran Kearney is certain that fear will not grip Coleraine's teenage starlets when they step onto the big stage at Windsor Park.

And neither does the Bannsiders boss see facing Linfield as a test of his youngsters' ability to forge careers in the Irish League, because he believes they are already proving themselves.

If there is pressure on anyone, Kearney says it is all on the Blues - and not because the Bannsiders are second in the league while Linfield go into the contest on the back of the club's worst run in 18 years.

It's down to the fact that Kearney's teenage terrors are showing maturity and that there is always pressure at Linfield - even when they are winning.

Lyndon Kane and Brad Lyons are both 18, Jamie McGonigle is 19 while Adam Mullan and Rodney Brown are just out of their teens.

Their performances would suggest that they are far more experienced than their ages tell and that's why Kearney is approaching tomorrow's game with confidence.

"I don't think it will be a test for our younger boys going to Windsor Park because for me we have crossed that bridge," said Kearney (pictured).

"It shows how far a lot of these kids have come. Lyndon Kane has played twice at Windsor Park already, Brad Lyons has played there - the majority of these lads have cut their teeth already.

"It was December last year that we played Linfield twice at Windsor Park and as much as we played well and came out with a draw and a narrow defeat, at stages of those games, for those young lads, they were rabbits in the headlights.

"This week I'll be saying that you've had your moment as a kid having your debut at all these big grounds, Saturday will not be about that and I won't be expecting to cover young lads or for people to pull them out of holes.

"They've had that and if they want to make a career out of it they have to go to places like this and prove that they can do it."

An exciting fusion of youthful exuberance, the experience of players like Steven Douglas and Neil McCafferty, plus the emergence of striker James McLaughlin, who had been unknown to most of the Irish League before this season, has lit up the Showgrounds.

The team are exceeding expectations and Kearney is enjoying the 10-match unbeaten streak that has taken them into second place - a run that has won him the November Manager of the Month prize.

He does, however, know exactly the pressure that Linfield manager David Healy is feeling after losing four-in-a-row in the league having spent four years at the Blues as a player.

"It is a big pressure and I remember when I was there, one game in particular during the Clean Sweep season against Armagh City in the Irish Cup, we were 2-0 up after half an hour and then we took our foot off the gas," he recalled.

"We were booed off at half-time - this was during the season where we won everything and we went on to win 5-0, but rightly so. David (Jeffrey) gave us one of the biggest dressing downs he ever gave.

"I'll never forget that and I think that gives an indication of just what the expectation is."

Coleraine's current form is no fluke. The development of the squad has been a long time in the making, since Kearney took the job almost five years ago.

He has had his tough times, with chairman Colin McKendry having to stay strong in the midst of pressure from a section of the support as recently as last season - something which Kearney is grateful for.

"I wouldn't still be in the job if the club had listened or if Colin had been weak and listened to bits and pieces of negativity," said Kearney. "To be where we are, as much as I am pleased for me, I am delighted for him.

"We have a good chemistry in the squad and it's not just about bringing young players into the club, it's about bringing good young players in.

"The four or five who have played a big part for us, yes, they are teenagers, but they are teenagers who are good players, they have been hand-picked and they have big futures.

"This Saturday there is no pressure. We are second in the league, what's the worst that can happen?"

Belfast Telegraph


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