ORAN Kearney has paid tribute to Coleraine’s fans as the Bannsiders brought their season to a close at the weekend.
Speaking at Saturday night’s Garvagh, Kilrea and District Supporters’ Club awards night Kearney hailed the role played by the fans in helping the club turn their fortunes around since his arrival in February.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the Bannsiders who were staring relegation in the face at the end of January as they languished in tenth place.
But since then they have doubled there points total following Saturday’s 2-0 win at Newry City to leave them well clear at the top of Section B and Kearney hailed the fans and the part they played.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to the fans because they have made a big difference throughout the season,” he said.
“They helped inspire us in so many games, none more so than in the Irish Cup at home to Glentoran.
“We know that times are hard and we try to put on a display for you every game and we hope that we’ve done that this season.
“I’m fully aware as a manager that every time I drive through these gates there is an expectation and I will never take that lightly.
“All we have done is raise standards. It’s not that the standards before weren’t good, we have simply imposed our expectations on the players.
“And from the day and hour we have come into this club to be fair to the players they have stepped up to the mark.
“I can assure you we’ll all be working flat out to make sure next season is even more successful.
“It would be great to be standing here next year with a trophy, but I’m not going to stand here like a politician and say I’m going to deliver the league title.
“Talk is cheap. The work I do over the next two months will have a massive impact on our season next year.
“We will do our talking out on the pitch next term.”
Kearney also heaped praise on his players pointing to the team spirit in the camp as another key factor in the club’s resurgence.
“It’s not about me or my staff, the reason we have had the success we have had since we’ve come in is because of the players,” said Kearney.
“They are the most important element at any club.
“I will pass all the credit on to them because they attitude and determination got us to where we are today.
“The most pleasing aspect of my tenure so far was our journey back home from Newry today (Saturday).
“I just wish that the fans could have been on that bus to seem the team spirit, because that is something which you cannot manufacture.
“For me it’s sad the season is ending because that journey home was so enjoyable and showed the real togetherness there is with this bunch of lads.
“In my experience of sport it’s that which wins things.
“Yes tactics and good players are massively important too, but when you have that buzz and togetherness that is the key thing.
“I’m now looking to the future. There will be new players coming in who will have to step up to the plate.
“It’s important that it’s the right type of player who will fit in with the lads and keep the team spirit going.
“Stephen Carson is stepping out after seven fantastic years at the club and he leaves a number 11 shirt with big shoulders to fill.
“But I will be asking the players can you step up to the plate?
“Not to be the next Stephen Carson, as Stephen is himself, but for the players to take it to an even higher level.”
Kearney’s speech brought an end to another successful event for the Garvagh, Kilrea and District Supporters’ Club, who for the first time held their event in the Social Club.
Almost 150 guest enjoyed a fabulous meal and were entertained by Bannsiders legend Johnny McCurdy, who fielded questions from the BBC’s Grant Cameron.
The big winner on the night was Howard Beverland who added the Player of the Year and The Coleraine Times Players’ Player of the Year awards to Coleraine.com and Ball Sponsors awards he picked up last week.
Leon Knight, who scored his 100th career goal at Newry, was crowned top scorer, with the impressive Aaron Canning scooping Young Player of the Year.