WILD ROVERS

ORAN Kearney believes his young Coleraine side can cause an upset in this season’S Setanta Cup.

The Bannsiders were paired with Shamrock Rovers in last Thursday’s draw at Stormont. It’s a tough draw for the Showgrounds outfit in only their second appearance in the competition, but Kearney believes his charges can follow the example set by last season’s winners Crusaders and take the competition by storm.

“Crusaders have done it, so why not?” said Kearney.

“The unexpected will be a big part of it and we haven’t been in there before.

“Most teams are at their best when they are underdogs and we are no different. We are going to use that tag to our advantage.

“It is a super draw for us and one which we knew we would be looking forward to.

“Last season was a big one for us, but we are continuing to build. Going up against the stronger sides in the league and of course teams in the League of Ireland are big tests for us.

“In many respects we are quite a young team and there are aspects of our team which are young for this league. But we want to finish as high as possible and opportunities like being in the Setanta Cup are ones to relish.

“We’re over the moon to be in the competition. We narrowly missed out on Europe last season, which would have been massive for our lads, but this is a close second, something with the same type of feel about it.

“It will be tough, hugely tough. In the last year and a half we have made massive changes to the club, playing staff, backroom staff and brought a new lease of life to the club, but a young lease of life.

“Portadown have just signed Gary Twigg and Linfield, Cliftonville and Crusaders have many seasoned pros and, I believe in our players, but we lack that experience.

“How do you get that experience? You play against teams like Shamrock Rovers in competitions like this and that’s where the learning takes place.”

The Hoops, who won the Airtricity League in 2011 under the guidance of current Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill, but they had a disappointing time last season with Stephen Kenny at the helm.

Trevor Croly is the new man in the Tallaght Stadium hot-seat and his first game in charge will be at home to the Bannsiders on Monday 11 February.

Rovers Chairman Jonathan Roche, who was present at the draw, was happy to be a playing a different opposition and eager to get the season underway to put last year’s disappointing campaign behind them.

“Speaking for the team and the coach we’re delighted to be getting back early and getting last season out of our system. We’re back training, already preparing, glad it’s a new team, someone we haven’t played already, particularly for the fans who will see a different team. We’re really looking forward to the competition.”

The second leg ties will be played on February 18 and the quarter finals are scheduled for March 4 and 11.