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Kearney has what it takes to succeed: O'Neill

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has tipped Oran Kearney to be a success as boss of St Mirren after recommending him for the job in the first place.

Kearney has signed a three year deal to take charge of the Scottish Premiership club and leaves Coleraine with the best wishes of the board, players and fans who appreciate the success he brought to the Showgrounds.

The 40-year-old, in charge of the Bannsiders since 2011, described the last two years at Coleraine, in which he has taken the team to two Irish Cup finals - winning one four months ago - and finishing runners-up to Crusaders in the league last season, as "monumental".

It was those successes that led O’Neill to urge St Mirren to interview Kearney in the summer. While the Buddies opted for the more experienced Alan Stubbs in June, Kearney’s impressive presentation made a lasting impression on the Saints board and after sacking Stubbs on Monday they came calling for the former Linfield midfielder.

O’Neill is confident Kearney can deliver in his new role.

“I believe Oran merits this opportunity and feel he can step up to work in the top flight of Scottish football,” said O’Neill.

“There are a lot of very good managers already working there and it is a great challenge for him. I do think though that Oran has all the attributes to go far in the game.”

O’Neill, who started his playing career with Coleraine, revealed the reasons why he recommended Kearney to St Mirren.

“I’ve been impressed by his Coleraine team and how he has conducted himself as a manager. I’ve also been impressed whenever I’ve spoken to him,” said O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh and is widely respected in Scottish football circles.

“You can tell he thinks about the game and when you think about the great job he has done at Coleraine he has shown what a good manager he is.

“He went through some difficult times at the club early on but he persevered which showed he has good strength of character. I think he deserves a chance hence the reason I recommended him to people I know at St Mirren. He obviously interviewed very well.”

Kearney’s first fixture as boss promises to be a special one with champions Celtic the visitors on Friday night for a league game which will be televised live on BT Sport.

He said an emotional goodbye to the Coleraine fans yesterday, stating: “I want to thank every player who has played under me throughout my time at Coleraine. I must add that the players in the last two or three years have been monumental and their consistency in the last 18 months is the reason why I’m at St Mirren.

“I would like to thank the Board of Directors who have been consistent throughout my spell here. In particular, Colin McKendry, who has been a rock as a chairman. When things got tough he had the vision and stubbornness to stick by me and I owe everything to him.

“I would also like to praise my staff, the likes of Trevor McKendry who has been with me throughout my spell here, Alan Millar, Winkie Murphy and most recently Paul Owens. A big credit to Drew Coyles and Trevor Moffatt who have been brilliant in and around the changing room.

“Finally I would like to thank the fans as it’s been a rollercoaster but I feel like things started to turn when they bought into the fact that we were developing young players and it restored a lot of pride and had a good feel about it. The songs that they sing are absolutely loved by the players and the noise that they made the other night (in the 3-0 win at Crusaders) was unbelievable.

“Our Irish Cup win is a moment that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

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