COLERAINE’S new manager, Oran Kearney, has made Premiership survival his first objective.
In his first interview since being named as David Platt’s successor, the Ballymoney man told Times Sport he is up for the challenge.
The 32-year-old and his backroom team of Trevor McKendry and Gregg Shannon have been thrown straight in to the melting pot of a derby clash with Ballymena United tonight (Tuesday).
And Kearney is under no illusions about the size of the job in front of him.
“The short term goal is to stay up,” he said.
“No club has the god-given right to be in the Premiership.
“Hopefully we can have an immediate impact and pick up points from the outset with a fresh outlook and attitude.
“The top six, until it is mathematically impossible, has to be a goal too.
“If we can put a run of results together against the teams that are in and around us then there’s nothing to say we can’t achieve that.
“But at the moment our main focus has to be on survival. It’s paramount come the end of the season that we are still in this division.”
The former Linfield man signed off with a win with his old club Limavady United at Banbridge on Saturday and as he explained he feels that he is ready to make the step up.
“I wouldn’t be standing here now if I didn’t think I could make the step up to the Premier League,” he said.
“From my playing career I like to think I’ve been there and done it at the highest level.
“And I’ve worked under some super managers as well. Not to say you steal all there ideas, because I am my own man and I’ll do it my own way.
“But you do pick bits off different managers.
“All players are different. Some need an arm around them and some need a kick up the backside.
“So you have to recognise the signs for that. I’m coming in to a whole new dressing room with a whole new range of personalities, and you can say what you like or hear what you like, but I’ll base my judgments on what I see.
“It’s a big vote of confidence for me. There were various names mooted for this job but I’d like to think the job we did at Limavady didn’t go unnoticed.
“There has to have been different people throughout the place putting in good words for me too.
“I know the Board have done their homework as it was evident when they came and spoke to me.
“They knew an awful lot about me and Limavady and had spoken to a lot of people.
“I’ve had my A Licence since I was 21 after I damaged my cruciate playing for Moyola. I always knew that coaching was a role I wanted to go down.
“I probably never expected to be using it this early in my career, but I believe things happen for a reason.
“Limavady was a good grounding for me and you need a starting point.
But after having played at the highest level your aspirations as a manager have to be the same.
“Any player worth their salt has to want to play in the Premier League as would any manager.
“I served my apprenticeship if you like at Limavady. There’s only two players there now from when I took over as the budget was slashed, but we still were able to put a team out that could compete and is currently in second place.
“I made a decision to go with young players and thankfully the way we went about it worked out for us.
“I think we’ve left the club in a better state than we found it.
“I had a great chat with chairman (David Young) yesterday and it was quite emotional when I got off the bus.
“David said he didn’t feel anything but pride because the way he saw it was he took a chance on me and he was over the moon to see me push on to bigger and better things.”
Kearney admitted it has been a surreal few days for him.
“It’s been an unbelievable couple of days,” he said.
“I came down here on Friday night with my father-in-law (Kenny Shiels) who was just home for the weekend and was keen to watch the game.
“I’m pleased now that I did because it’s given me a look at the side ahead of Tuesday night.
“I was up from 6.30 on Saturday morning with the kids and I got a call a couple of hours later saying the board were keen to talk to me.
“About 15 minutes later they were out at my house and we sat down and had a good chat for a couple of hours.
“They managed to keep me late for the Limavady team bus so on my final day there I picked up my first fine!
“So once we had picked up all the guys I stood up and announced that I was leaving as I preferred it that they heard the news from me rather than from a third party.
“I think they had an inkling anyway as there was a bit of banter when I got on, but I didn’t want to say anything until I had all the guys together.
“I wanted to thank them for all their hard work and endeavour because they have helped me get this opportunity.
“They were all pleased for me and they knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
“But it was a difficult day however it shows the character of the Limavady lads that they went on and won the game.
“That really pleased me as it nice to be able to leave on a high.
“From then onwards it was a bit mad. I checked my phone and I’d hundreds of messages all wishing me well.”
One of those was his former manager David Jeffrey, who Kearney says he has learnt a lot from.
“I spoke to David on Saturday and he told me he was over the moon for me,” he said.
“He wished me all the best and told me he hopes it goes well except when we play them.
“Having played under him I have an awful lot of time for him, but when we come up against them the only thing which will matter is Coleraine taking all three points.
“You pick all the best bits you can find from all the managers you‘ve worked under and I certainly learned a lot at Linfield.
“Another thing which has helped me is my job as a school teacher as it teaches you discipline.
“I’m not a disciplinarian in the old sense, but there will be rules and we’ll abide by them or people will be punished.
“To me that’s a simple way for any institution to be run and it should be no different here.
“It’s not a case of cracking whips though, the list of rules will be very simple, honest rules, they are more expectations than anything.
“I think any player who pulls on a shirt for a club like this should be asked to have certain standards.
“I have my ways how I like to play the game and I want to make my stamp on things.
“There are players coming out of contract and it’s entirely up to them to put themselves in to my plans for next season and not me hoping that they will still be here.
“They have to decide that they really want to be at this club because it’s going places and it’s up to me to do that.
“If that’s not an expectation or a standard at this club then I think we will struggle.”
Kearney knows he can also learn from his father-in-law who also spent time in The Showgrounds hot-seat.
“Kenny (Shiels) is great, he’s a football purist,” he said.
“He’s happy that I’m involved in the game at the highest level and at a club which is very close to his heart.
“I’m sure he’ll be keeping a close eye and I’m expecting plenty of phone calls.
“We’re not coming in here saying we’ve been there and done it. We’ve a lot of learning to do and it will be a steep learning curve.
“We’re under no illusions about that.
“We also want to meet the fans so we’re going to hold an open meeting to answer some of their questions.
“It’ll be in the Social Club on Tuesday 15 February at 8pm.
“It’s something I want to keep going no matter what the results may be because the fans are a massive part of this club.
“There has to be some transparency.”
And as a local man Kearney is also determined to work alongside the club’s Academy to help and nurture the next generation of players.
“I’m very keen on developing the Academy set up here,” he said.
“The geography of Coleraine and where we are at in comparison to the rest of the Irish League means that realistically we will have a few from Derry direction and a few from Belfast, but the nucleus must come from this area.
“Given the population size and the amount of boys clubs there has to be quality out there.
“In the current Linfield squad I think there’s seven out of the 22 who have come through the ranks.
“I’m not sure on the numbers here at Coleraine but it’s something we will have to look at.
“It won’t be something I’ll be able to do straight away, but once we can steady things on the pitch then definitely I want to look at the whole structure and to make sure we have something in place so we can see a conveyor belt of people starting to come through.
“I think Stephen Dooley was the last to break through so that needs to be addressed so that we can have more young players following in his footsteps.”