Kearney is relishing another crack at the Setanta Cup

Ryan McIlmoyle takes on Sean O'Connor of Shamrock Rovers.  �INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Ryan McIlmoyle takes on Sean O'Connor of Shamrock Rovers. �INPHO/Cathal Noonan

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Coleraine manager Oran Kearney is relishing another trip down south as his side get ready to face Dundalk in this year’s Setanta Cup.

Kearney, who was a regular participant in the cross-border competition during his playing days with Linfield, leads the Bannsiders into their third Setanta campaign.

In their two previous away ties, both in Dublin against Bohemians in 2009 and Shamrock Rovers last year, Coleraine made the long journey home with plenty to smile about as they drew with Pat Fenlon’s high fliers three years ago and last February they recorded a fantastic 1-0 win at Tallaght Stadium.

And Kearney is hoping for more of the same this time around after his side’s late call up to the competition.

“We’re delighted that we’ve been given the chance to participate in this year’s competition, it’s a massive opportunity for us,” said Kearney, who is now in his fourth year in charge at The Showgrounds.

“There are pros and cons with the tournament, and other clubs have their reasons for pulling out. That is up to them.

“But we as a club have enjoyed our games in recent years and hopefully this year will be the same.

“Last year’s trip to Shamrock Rovers was a massive test for us against a quality side, but we showed what we are capable of.

“You want to make sure the tie is still alive for the second leg and we did that against Rovers. We have to make sure we are in a similar position when we leave Oriel Park next week.”

Kearney admits Dundalk are something of an unknown quantity as the Lilywhites season is still to begin in earnest.

“We are going into the tie a bit blind to be honest as Dundalk are yet to play a competitive game as such,” said the Bannsiders boss.

“We have a few sources down there who have been able to help us out with regards to a few of the new signings, so we have tried to do as much homework on them as possible.

“We know it will be a tough game. Dundalk finished as runners-up last season just three points behind St Pats, so they have quality in their side.

“Stephen Kenny is a very good manager and he has made some astute signings.”

One of the new arrivals at Oriel Park is well known to Kearney, and if things had worked out differently he may have been lining up against the Lilywhites.

“It’s no secret we were after Ruaidhrí Higgins,” said Kearney.

“He’s a fantastic player and is someone who would have brought a lot to our side.

“He is also good mates with quite a few of our players, which adds an extra element to the tie.

“Yeah, things could have worked out differently and Ruaidhrí could have been playing for us, but it didn’t happen unfortunately.”