ORAN Kearney was delighted with the surprise late call up his side received to this season’s Setanta Cup.
The Bannsiders were draughted in to the cross border competition along with Ballinamallard United following the late withdrawal of both Linfield and Cliftonville.
And in last week’s draw they were handed a tantalising tie with Dundalk, much to Kearney’s delight.
“First off, I’m delighted we received an invitation to be in this competition,” he told Times Sport.
“Dundalk is a great draw and one that is geographically good for us. Hopefully that will mean a sizeable travelling support and big crowds for both matches.
“Because it’s only a couple of hours down the roaf we’ll be able to treat it like a normal away day as such with a pre-match meal thrown in. It will be a good test for us. We had a great experience at Shamrock Rovers last season and hopefully we can build on that.
The Stripes will first face an away trip to Oriel Park on Monday 24 February, before hosting the Lilywhites at the Showgrounds on Monday 10 March.
Dundalk, managed by Stephen Kenny, qualified for the Setanta Sports Cup by finishing as runners-up in last season’s League Of Ireland title race and were finalists in 2011.
Kearney admitted he was only too pleased to be asked following the withdrawal of the Belfast clubs.
“We got the invite and we decided it would be a massive opportunity,” Kearney said.
“There was a wee whisper a couple of weeks ago and I’m delighted it has come to fruition.
“The funding might be slightly down on previous years, but it won’t cost Coleraine anything to participate. We can easily cover costs and things like that, so it is a great chance to go out and compete against some top teams. There are pros and cons with the tournament, and other clubs have their reasons for pulling out. That is up to them.
“We are just pleased to have been given an invite, and it is something we can look forward to next February.”
Setanta Sports announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with the competition.
The prize fund of €73,000 includes €30,000 for the winners.
Other participants will receive €4,500 each.