THE dust has only settled on what was a dramatic but ultimately exciting season for Coleraine.
It may have come to a disappointing climax, but ultimately the club has made giant strides again this year.
A fourth place finish, just missing out on a place in Europe and the chance to lift their first piece of major silverware in almost a decade shows that the club is slowly but surely establishing itself as contenders again.
For skipper David Ogilby though this isn’t a great season. The 27-year-old told Times Sport this is the very least the Bannsiders should be aiming for next season.
“We were all very disappointed last Saturday to miss out on a place in Europe, but when you look at the season as a whole it has been pretty good and we’ve taken another leap forward,” said Ogilby.
“At the start of the season we would have bitten your hand off to claim a top four finish and just narrowly miss out on some silverware and European football.
“But this can’t be the exception for us now. For a club like Coleraine this has to be the rule.”
There were a lot of highs for Oran Kearney’s men this year, but there were a few big lows too, with the majority of them coming at the hands of Crusaders.
“We’ll be glad to see the back of them this season,” joked Ogilby.
“Our season came down to three games against them in the League Cup, the Irish Cup and the final game of the League.
“Unfortunately for us we just didn’t perform on those days and it cost us.
“We are a young team and maybe our naivety at times played into their hands, as they are a very experienced team.
“But we need to learn from it and learn fast otherwise we’re going to find ourselves in the same position year on year.
“The hurt and disappointment we felt in those games will always be with us and we have to use it as motivation for next season and beyond. I certainly do not want to have to experience that again and I don’t want the fans to have to either.
“They have been fantastic for us and I’m just gutted that we couldn’t give them something to really cheer about.
“It’s not all doom and gloom though there were some memorable games for us for the right reasons.
“Personally scoring the winner in the League Cup quarter final against the Glens was a great moment.
“And the 5-1 over Ballymena will long be remembered by players and fans alike.”
The big defender believes the Bannsiders can learn plenty from their ‘nemesis’ Crusaders who have gone from also-rans to title contenders.
“It’s not that long ago the Crues were relegated from the Premier League,” he said.
“But rather than feel sorry for themselves they worked hard to get themselves promoted and establish themselves in the top division again.
“They obviously learned from their experiences and grew stronger because of them. For me we have to do the same and it’s by looking at what teams like Crusaders are doing that we can follow suit.
“Over the past four or five seasons they have consistantly challenged for the top honours and won a few along the way.
“They maybe didn’t have as strong a title challenge this time round but they could still end the season with three trophies which would be amazing.
“Look at some of the results they’ve pulled off this term, particularly in the Setanta Cup.
“A lot of that is down to hard work and belief. I know they are slightly ahead of us in terms of their development, but there’s no reason why we can’t follow in their footsteps.
“We are a young side, and as I said it maybe showed in some games this season, but the bigger picture shows that we are heading in the right direction.
“Next season we will be another year wiser and more experienced.”
Ogilby knows the league will be even stronger next season. Already teams have moved to strengthen their squads. The Crues have snapped up ace marksman Gary McCutcheon from Ballymena United and champions Linfield have pulled off a major coup by signing Portadown striker Matthew Tipton.
The skipper knows the Bannsiders can’t afford to stand still either, but he has every confidence in his manager to recruit more quality players over the close season.
“No matter how good a season you’ve had you cannot afford to stand still and not add to your squad,” he said.
“Just look at Linfield they’re on course for their sixth double in seven season but yet they add players every summer.
“Already they’ve made a great signing in Tipton who will strengthen an already strong team and that sends out a real statement of intent.
“And the Crues have bagged McCutcheon who was on fire this season.
“So we have to make sure that we keep progressing. I’ve every faith in the boss to bring in not just quality players to the club over the next few weeks, but also the right players to the club, just like he has done throughout his time here.
“We’re very fortunate to have a great team spirit at the club and I know Oran is careful about which players he targets making sure the players that come in fit in with the team ethos.”
Team spirit has played a big part in helping the Bannsiders challenge for honours this term. This has been particularly evident in defence with Coleraine conceding only 38 goals in the league (the second best defensive record) and keeping 13 clean sheets along the way.
A lot of that was down to the performances at the heart of the defence by Ogliby and his defensive partner Howard Beverland.
“When I first came to the club we were conceding far to many goals,” said Ogilby.
“And a lot of them were very soft. If you do that regularly you’re never going to win games as you’re giving yourself too big a mountain to climb.
“Since then we’ve tighten up a lot, especially this season.
“Our record of 38 goals conceded equates to one a game over the course of the season which isn’t bad, I think Linfield were the only team to concede less.
“But as I keep saying we have to aim for better next season. I want at least 14 or 15 clean sheets next term and less goals conceded.
“There’s no reason why we can’t achieve it. We’ve some very strong players in defence and that coupled by the defensive qualities of the whole team is working well for us.”
Ogilby’s form saw him pick up two Player of the Year awards, a feat matched by Beverland who also scooped tow gongs as well as the Coleraine Times sponsored Players’ Player of the Year award.
And the Strathfoyle man was delighted to pick up the honours.
“Personally it’s great to get recognition for your performances, especially from the fans as they are the ones who are going week in, week out,” he said.
“But the pleasing thing this year is that four or five players were candidates for them. It shows the level of performance that we have been producing over the course of the season.”