COLERAINE extended their unbeaten run over Ballymena United to 12 games on Saturday, but more importantly they secured a quarter final tie against Portadown next month thanks to a last gasp winner.
David Scullion popped up right on 90 minutes to seal a dramatic 3-2 win over the old enemy just seconds after it had looked as though they had earned a replay.
Gary Liggett headed home from close range with two minutes to go to bring the Sky Blues level, but the Bannsiders put their recent woes behind them to go back up the pitch and grab the winner much to the delight of boss Oran Kearney.
“We looked like ourselves today especially with the manner in which we won it and that’s the key for me,” Kearney told Times Sport after the game.
“We got a response today. People had a right to be critical after Tuesday night’s defeat. Since the fans started looking for this £35,000, which we need, they come and pay £10 to watch us and they are dipping into their pockets to help the club, and then we serve up the tripe we have been recently.
“So, they have every right to have a go. We should thrive off the critics, I do anyway.
“You have to be in the competition to win it, and the Irish Cup is a special competition and one you want to win.
“I suppose the grandstand finish this game typified what the cup is about. Could this be the turning point to be the catalyst? I really hope so.”
Kearney certainly enjoyed Scullion’s thrilling winner, leading the celebrations from the touchline.
“I have it in me to celebrate like Mourinho,” laughed Kearney, who is yet to taste defeat against the Sky Blues since taking over at Coleraine.
“It was just great to get the result after the recent tough times we have been through.
“I had a feeling when we got the corner. We haven’t scored from a corner for a long time, and I felt something would happen.
“It was a nice moment, but most of the subs and backroom team were passing me.
“We must build on this. It is another platform, but we have been here before.
“We had a similar platform after the Ballinamallard defeat but we didn’t kick on. And we had the Cliftonville game which was a wake-up call and now we have this cup win. Hopefully the players can build on it.
“We are good enough to beat anyone on our day, but we are all humans and things don’t go well all the time. The key is how you respond, and the players’ character was beyond question today.”
The win sets up a home quarter final tie against fellow Premiership side Portadown. With several junior sides still in the hat it may not have been the draw everyone would have wanted, but Kearney is looking forward to it.
“It is a home draw which is pleasing,” he said.
“There were sides in there which I am sure most clubs would have wanted, but sometimes those kind of teams can cause you problems as well.
“So there are never any easy draws at this stage of the competition, and all you can ask for is a home game.
“We have got that and now we have to kick on and try and string a few performances like today together before that quarter-final tie comes around.
“There are usual goals when we meet, so it should be a good cup tie.
“I just feel this group of lads can go far. We are a good enough match for anyone.
“Hopefully we can get some momentum going and try and grab a semi-final spot.
“Ronnie (McFall) has been at it so long, and I don’t know how he stuck it for so long.
“He has loads of experience and some very good players there.
“They are a good side, but these are the teams you have to beat if you want to reach cup finals.”