ORAN Kearney received a major boost on Saturday as Shane Jennings made his long awaited return from a shoulder injury.
The big Ballycastle man has been out all season, but surprised many by making a return to action in the weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Portadown to boost the Bannsiders striking options.
But Kearney told Times Sport after the game that Jennings has been raring to go for the last month.
“We got the all clear from the specialist on Friday, but he’s been knocking my door down for the last month begging to play,” said the Bannsiders boss.
“But trying to look after him we chose against that. We wrapped him in cotton wool to make sure his rehab was as close as possible to the recommended time.
“The surgeon said six months at the start, we are now at the five month mark, but he has been ready from the four month mark. Shane had this operation before so he knows how strong he is and he is mentally 100% ready to go.
“What we’ll probably find though is that it will take him a bit of time to get his match fitness built up. Adrenalin will carry him through the first few games and I wanted that to be at first team level.
“But like Ciaran Clarke to a certain extent today, once we get past those first couple of games there will be a bit of a dip because they are missing game time. This is a tough league and there are no easy weeks.
“It’s about getting them minutes now and they’ve both put in a great shift today.
“It’s great to have Shane back again as he adds a physical presence and wins a lot of headers, but he also makes life difficult for opposition defenders in the air too.
“He gives us a different dimension, he runs the channels and can finish too, in fact I would rate him as one of the top finishers in the club.”
Jennings’ return boosts the Bannsiders striking options, but in Curtis Allen they have one of the league’s top marksman. His header against Portadown was his eighth of the season, taking his tally to 32 in just 61 starts for Coleraine.
“Curtis plays right at the top of our tree as such and generally we create a lot of chances so we expect him to be weighing in we those sort of stats,” said Kearney.
“It was a great finish by him today. It would have been a harder one to glance, but he did very well to power it back in the direction it came.”
Kearney will be hoping Allen can do the business again this Saturday as he returns to one of his old clubs, Lisburn Distillery.
But the Bannsiders boss is expecting another tough game, especially as he has a few injury concerns.
“Stevie (Lowry) felt his groin a wee bit on Thursday night but he was happy enough to try it today but once it started to deteriorate we took him off straight away.
“To be fair to big Stewart McMullan he has bided his time for his first start and as a defender to be asked to go and play in midfield he did a decent job and he added a wee bit of steel in there.
“Ryan (McIlmoyle) twisted his ankle near the end and Aaron (Canning) took a bang to the foot so we’ll assess them all this week. Hopefully they are just impact injuries and they’ll be okay for Saturday.
“I know Distillery are struggling at the wrong end of the table but they’ve probably given us our toughest game this season and it was probably a game which they feel aggrieved about not taking anything from.
“We’ve a lot of work to do this week to get our heads back on it because if we go out and perform like we did in the first half today then anyone can beat us.”