Oran Kearney is raring to go again for the new season after what he described as ‘a tough couple of months’.
The Ballymoney man had been riding on a crestof a wave twelve months ago leading Coleraine to Irish Cup glory before making the mover to St Mirren and achieving mission impossible by keeping them in the Scottish Premiership.
But a break down in relationship between Kearney and Saints chairman Gordon Scott led to a parting of the ways, and eventually a return to The Showgrounds.
“It was a tough couple of months, to be honest I didn’t see myself being back in football as quick,” he said.
“I spent a week by myself, it was probably the first week I’d been out of football in a long time.
“I very quickly realised you could get stuck in a rut, so it was important to get back out there.
“It does feel like I’ve been away at times, but then one of the positives about stepping back to your old club is that there’s so many of the routines and bits and pieces that you know already.
“You’re not going through that curve of trying to learn people’s names and routines and everything else that goes with it.
“So you can hit the ground running from that point of view.
“The pre-season box is ticked off now and we look forward to the real thing.”
Kearney has been flat out since agreeing to take over the Bannsiders for a second spell at the start of July.
“We’ve went through a lot of work, you’re trying to play a lot of catch up,” he said.
“The squad has evolved, the league has evolved, it’s about trying to catch up on all of those things as well as trying to catch up on recruitment.
“We’re probably six months behind from that point of view. You generally have your summer work done by January and vice versa.
“It’s nice to get Emmett (McGuckin) in now, and ideally we’d like to get one or two more in.
“But it’s going to be a real push to try and get that done before the window shuts later this month.
“There will be a few that will probably go before the window shuts, we’re sitting at 23/24 players, which is too many.”
The Bannsiders finished runners-up in Kearney’s last season with the club, but he knows this season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in Irish League history.
“There has been big strides made by other clubs over the last twelve months,” he said.
“There has been a lot said about Larne, Glentoran as well, Linfield and Crusaders have made steps, Cliftonville have their house in order and Ballymena too.
“There has been big gains made by clubs, it’s going to be a hell of a fight and I think it’s going to be a hell of a league this year too.”
And on Saturday they face a rejuvenated Cliftonville side who can cause any team problems.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” admitted Kearney.
“With the likes of Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly they have big fire power there.
“Even if they are huffing and puffing and things aren’t going according to plan they have match winners at the top end of the pitch, and we need to be so careful of that,” he added.