THEY say a week is a long time in football - and Coleraine FC certainly proved it in the last seven days.
The mood in the camp was low following last Tuesday night’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of league leaders Cliftonville. But rather than lick their wounds the players produced two excellent displays to record cup wins over Ballymena United and Shamrock Rovers to bounce back in style.
“After the last month we’ve had to come and put in a performance like that says a lot about the players,” said Oran Kearney after the win over Shamrock Rovers.
“It’s only half time though. You could see by the players’ celebrations at the end, they were low-ish key either through sheer fatigue or the realisation that we still have another 90 minutes to get through next week.”
The Bannsiders had to concede a lot of ground to Rovers, but Kearney was pleased that the game plan worked.
“I would hate to see the possession stats,” he said. “But with so many games in such a short space of time I don’t think we had any other choice.
“We came through a savage match on Saturday on a really heavy pitch so the legs were tried but the lads dug in and produced a great performance.
“Even if we had been fresh coming into the game we would probably have had to give up a lot of the possession.
“We didn’t have time to train for this game because of the enormity of the Irish Cup game on Saturday, but there are a couple of teams that we play regularly who play similar to Rovers so we adopted the same sort of game plan.
“Our guys were very disciplined, they pressed when they had to and sat in when it was needed. They worked so hard on the night.
“I hate singling out players but I thought Joel Bradley’s performance tonight speaks volumes about him, it was a performance of real maturity which belied his tender years.”
Kearney also praised the efforts of goal scorer David Scullion who came on late in the first half as a replacement for the injured Ruairi Harkin before nicking the vital goal.
“David showed a lot of courage to finish like that after what happened on Saturday against Ballymena when he tried something similar,” said the Bannsiders boss.
“I had hoped to bring Ruairi off at the 60 minute mark and throw David on for the last half hour so that we managed the squad as best we could.
“But he’s got a good workout under his belt now and should still be fresh for Saturday’s league game with Ballymena.
“He was unlucky with another couple of efforts in the second half and Stevie Lowry should probably have added a second late on, but overall I’m very happy with the result and the performance.”
Created a number of good goal scoring opportunities on the night even without the services of top scorer Curtis Allen, who missed the game with a tight hamstring.
“Curtis had a twinge in his hamstring in the last couple of minutes on Saturday and 48 hours just isn’t long enough to give him any recovery time,” revealed Kearney.
“Thank God he was honest with me. I pleaded with him not to be a hero and go out and play and then be ruled out for three or four weeks.
“He had a good look at it before the game with Alan Millar and it was still quite tight so we just made the choice to rule him out completely.”
Kearney is determined to finish the job off on Monday night when Rovers make the trip north for the return leg.
“We fought long and hard last season to secure what is our ‘Europe’ as such that we were determined to make the most of it,” he said.
“I embraced this competition as a player and I want my players to do the same.
“This is a taster of what it’s like to play in European competition heading away together and spending time with each other and it’s something we will be hoping to build on.”