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Oran Kearney grateful for Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon pep talks

 

By Steven Beacom

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney has revealed how Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon helped him ahead of his interview for the manager's job at St Mirren.

While Alan Stubbs eventually ended up with the post, it is understood the St Mirren board were hugely impressed by Kearney's presentation and that the former Linfield midfielder was next in line to be offered the role.

True to form, Kearney, recommended to St Mirren by Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, was thorough in his research and preparation for a shot at managing in the Scottish Premiership.

Had he landed the job, he would have become the fifth Northern Irishman to be in charge of a side in Scotland's top flight following in the footsteps of Rodgers at Celtic, Lennon at Hibs, Motherwell's Stephen Robinson and St Johnstone's Tommy Wright.

Kearney says he will always appreciate Rodgers and Lennon taking time to speak to him.

"Brendan was brilliant. He was a gentleman and very down to earth. We had a great conversation. He was full of information and good wishes and everything else," said Coleraine's Irish Cup winning boss.

"Neil also took the phone call no problem and we spoke for about half an hour and he was fantastic. He was a great person to talk to and to gain information from.

"I can't speak highly enough of the two of them to take time out of their busy schedules to give me their time. It was greatly appreciated and I will be indebted to them.

"I got great feedback from St Mirren as well and it was a fantastic experience to go through the interview."

Kearney would loved to have had the chance to draw Lennon's Hibs or Steven Gerrard's Rangers today's Europa League first qualifying round draw, but instead his Coleraine side will be matched with one of Gornik Zabrze (Poland), Vardar (Macedonia), Dinamo Minsk (Belarus), Spartak Subotica (Serbia) or OFK Titograd (Montenegro). Kenny Shiels' Derry City are in the same boat as the Bannsiders.

"I would have loved Coleraine to draw Rangers or Hibs for lots of reasons. One of the biggest would be financial where: number one, the away leg would not cost a fortune; and number two, for the home leg you'd have a chance of a really big crowd," said Kearney.

"At any time it would be brilliant to get Rangers, but at the current time with the hype and buzz surrounding them at the moment with Steven Gerrard coming in as manager it would have been a great time to play them."

Given the quality of the sides they will face, it will be a big ask for Coleraine to reach the second phase, though Kearney feels last season's Europa League experience, when they lost their first leg 7-0 to Norway's FK Haugesund before drawing the return 0-0, will aid them.

"Last year was a great experience but maybe in the away leg we played like we would a normal Irish League match and were quite expansive," recalled Kearney.

"They were quite expansive too but were probably fitter and sharper and that hurt us. We would hope with this season the players would be more experienced and ready for whoever we face."

Like Coleraine, Cliftonville are in line for a tough opening round tie in the Europa League. The Solitude side could face Harfnarfjordur (Iceland), Nordsjaelland (Denmark), AIK (Sweden), Ventspils (Latvia) or Shakhtyor Soligorsk (Belarus).

Out of the three Danske Bank Premiership sides, Glenavon may have the best hope of progressing in the competition.

They could be paired with Zalgiris Vilnius (Lithuania), Molde (Norway), Nomme Kalju (Estonia), Fola Esch (Luxembourg) or Slavia Sofia (Bulgaria) when the draw commences at noon.

The first legs are scheduled for July 12 with the second legs one week later.

Belfast Telegraph

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