Oran Kearney says last season’s heartbreaking League Cup semi final defeat to Ards is at the forefront of his mind ahead of tonight’s (Tuesday) game at Ballymena.
The Bannsiders boss is hoping his players have learned from the disappointment they tasted at this stage as they prepare to take on their old foes in the last four.
“Last year’s semi final defeat is at the forefront of my mind,” he said.
“I have drove it home to the players since last year - as much as it’s history now and it will never change - but we can show what we have learned from it, put that into practice and go and get a result.”
Kearney has rested key players going into the game at Warden Street in a bid to give his side the best possible chance of getting to the final.
On Saturday he made six changes to his side as they went down 1-0 at Glenavon.
“There’s been 11 or 12 players who have probably played the whole season for us, some of them very important to they style of football we play,” he said.
“Tuesday night is a massive game. I remember this time last year we went full out on the Saturday against Glenavon as well and Howard Beverland picked up two yellows and missed the semi final against Ards.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t learn from that and try and manage the squad a bit wiser.
“I don’t think we’re going to win the league but we have a strong enough league position at the minute that we could afford to look after a few guys against Cliftonville and Glenavon.
“It’s my job to leave us in the best position going into Tuesday night to give us the best opportunity to get into a final.
“I have to learn the lessons from last year which I feel cost us, the decisions on the Saturday cost us on the Tuesday night and hopefully today the decision made will leave us fresh for Tuesday night, and fingers crossed it will get us the right result.
“I said to the boys I take full responsibility for the last couple of games, and on my head be it.
“The key thing now is after we have made the decision to do this, and I’m craving a huge effort and a big peformance on Tuesday night, is we go out now and there is no excuse.
“No-one can look me in the eye and say they haven’t had enough minutes or had too many minutes.”
Opposite Kearney in the home dugout is a man who he shared many trophy winning moments with during their time together at Linfield.
And Kearney knows it will be a real battle with David Jeffrey.
“Yeah we obviously know each other well, but come kick off on Tuesday night there won’t be much we can do,” said the Bannsiders boss.
“We are a privileged fan if you like, we get a better viewpoint of the game and we can shout a bit.
“Bar a substitution or two the work is all done prior to the game.
“I know Davy will be wanting to get in his first final with Ballymena, so there is a lot at stake for both clubs,” added Kearney.
Coleraine are looking to reach their seventh League Cup final while Ballymena have appeared in the decider only once before, that a 3-2 defeat to Cliftonville in the 14/15 season.
Jeffrey is keen to get going in their eagerly awaited clash.
“There’s little between the sides but everyone is looking forward to the semi-final,” he said.
“The League Cup is the third biggest competition and Coleraine will be looking to it as a target.”
This season, the League Cup semi-finals are without any Belfast team for the first time since 1989.
Tuesday night’s game at Warden Street will kick off at 7.45pm and fans can pay at the gate.