Kearney admits everything is focused on the European Play-offs

Press Eye - Northern Ireland -23rd April 2016
Photograph: Stephen  Hamilton /Presseye

Danske Bank Irish premier league match between Crusaders and Coleraine at Seaview Belfast.
Crusaders Paul Heatley  in action with Coleraines Brad lyons
Press Eye - Northern Ireland -23rd April 2016 Photograph: Stephen Hamilton /Presseye Danske Bank Irish premier league match between Crusaders and Coleraine at Seaview Belfast. Crusaders Paul Heatley in action with Coleraines Brad lyons

Coleraine could have been forgiven for thinking they were the bridesmaids at the big celebrations at Seaview on Saturday.

All the talk before and after the game was about Crusaders’ fantastic achievement of securing back-to-back league titles.

And rightly so as not too many teams have followed up a league title winning success with another one.

But the Bannsiders know they have their own big day coming up very soon.

Saturday’s results mean it now looks very likely that Coleraine will host Glentoran in the European Play-off semi final.

As it stands Cliftonville will go through to the final as Dungannon, currently in seventh, finish there.

But if Ballymena United leapfrog them on the final daythey will take on the Reds.

For Oran Kearney though it’s about focusing on his own side and making sure they are fit and raring to go.

“Over the last few games we’ve been trying to manage the squad as best we can,” he told Times Sport.

“We’ve been nursing along the guys who have played a lot, or those who have been struggling with little niggles.

“We’ve also tried to get minutes into the players that need them.

“The big focus is that semi final. That’s the only thing that matters.

“We want to be going into that game with a full squad of players to pick from and make sure our best players are available.

“Unfortunately fourth place got away from us a few games ago so it was important that we put all our attention on the semi final.

“That is the game to judge us on, that is the game all the focus and attention has to be on for us as a club.

“We are two games away from European football and we would definitely have taken that at the start of the season.”

A first half strike from Jordan Owens was the difference between the two sides on Saturday, but Kearney was pleased with how his side performed against the champions.

“That and the 1-1 draw earlier in the season were our two best performances against the Crues this season,” he said.

“I felt we were unfortunate not to take at least a point, if not all three.

“People point to the goals we concede from set pieces, but I thought we dealt with that aspect very well on Saturday, against one of the league’s best exponents of a dead ball.

“We have to carry that on into the Play-offs now.

“I would expect this Saturday’s game against Cliftonville to be quite cagey.

“I don’t think they will want to reveal their hand too much, and we will be the same.

“The last few games have had a bit of a pre-season feel to them, building up to the big game.

“We have a couple of wee niggles and some players are feeling the exertions of a long season, so we need to manage them so they are ready for the last two games.

“So much hinges on the outcome of the Play-offs, especially player recruitment.

“We will have to look at different scenarios depending on wheteher we qualify for Europe or not.”