Bannsiders set for crucial cup quarter final

James McLaughlin celebrates scoring against Warrenpoint Town    during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Milltown. 'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
James McLaughlin celebrates scoring against Warrenpoint Town during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Milltown. 'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
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Coleraine boss Oran Kearney knows just how important derby games are to the fans having played in some massive games down the years.

But even Kearney knows this Wednesday night’s League Cup clash with Ballymena United holds extra significance given what is at stake.

Passage to the last four of a competition without the likes of Linfield and Crusaders along with bragging rights awaits the victors, and Kearney can’t wait.

“Derbies across the world mean a huge amount to football fans, and this one will be no different,” he told Times Sport.

“I think the bragging rights for Coleraine fans, or Ballymena fans, are vitally important for fans in the context of a season.

“League derbies are very important, but I think when it comes to the latter stages of a cup competition it makes for a very important match.

Oran Kearney after victory over  Warrenpoint Town     during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Milltown. 'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

Oran Kearney after victory over Warrenpoint Town during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match at Milltown. 'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye

“So I think we’re all very aware of how important the game is.

“There’s big opportunities here for the eight teams left in the draw.

“A derby is as big a games as it gets, never mind a derby which has the big prize of a semi final berth, so that sums up just how important this game is to us.”

Coleraine captain Howard Beverland agreed with his boss calling it a ‘great opportunity’.

A derby is as big a games as it gets, never mind a derby which has the big prize of a semi final berth

ORAN KEARNEY

“This is a massive game for us,” said Beverland.

“It took penalties for us to beat Harland and Wolf in the last round, but after the game we had heard the likes of Linfield and Crusaders had crashed out, so it brought home just home important is was for us to win the game.

“We see this as a great opportunity, albeit when it comes to cup games it really doesn’t matter who you get, but to avoid the likes of Linfield and Crusaders is a big plus for us.

“We won’t be underestimating Ballymena though, it’s the tie of the round for a reason.

“But we’ll preparing as best we can for the game and going into it full of confidence, and rightly so given our recent performances.”

The Bannsiders moved level on points with Linfield on Saturday following their 4-0 win over Warrenpoint Town as Kearney’s talented young team continue to impress.

“Obviously we’ve made changes,” he said. “Through the Chairman and myself, over the last season or two, we’ve made a concerted vow to build from the bottom up.

“We have a squad of 20 players, two goalkeepers in that, and out of that squad of 20, I have nine teenagers. We’re very young and with that, at times, we maybe lack guile. But the thing the young players bring is a serious enthusiasm and a serious hunger.

“I said that to the lads after the game that the one thing we stink of is hunger. We look like a team that is really hungry. We have older players who still have a point to prove and who want to achieve something and the younger players making their career in the game and who want to be Irish League players and who want to be here for a long time.

“It’s a beautiful thing. It can’t be coached, it can’t be designed and you can’t create it but to have a changing room so hungry to want to do well, it makes my job really easy.

“Hunger isn’t looking three or four months ahead of yourself. Hunger is a real desire to do well at Monday night at training so you’re picked for Wednesday and that’s all I want to see.

“We’ll go as far as Wednesday night and all my thoughts turn to there and when we get Wednesday night past us, our thoughts will turn to Saturday.”