Coleraine will put a 1,230 day reign on the line when they face Cliftonville in today’s BetMcLean League Cup final at Windsor Park.
It is now three and half years since the cup holders suffered a defeat in the competition when they lost a third round tie on penalties to Glentoran in October 2018.
Huddersfield Town were in the Premier League, Theresa May was Prime Minister and the Coleraine team that night included Darren McAuley, Ciaron Harkin and Jamie McGonigle.
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Oh.. and Rodney McAree was Bannsiders boss.
Kearney? The 43-year-old was managing St Mirren in the Scottish Premier League and eight months away from returning to the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds for a second spell in the summer of 2019.
The fact the League Cup wasn’t played last season because of the Covid-19 pandemic has helped pad out the 1,230 day statistic.
But after lifting the trophy in 2020, thanks to a 2-1 win over Crusaders, Kearney is eager to keep his hands on a piece of familiar silverware this afternoon
“We all remember the experiences of winning the League Cup in 2020 and we remember those experiences like they was yesterday,” he said.
“Most of the players who lifted the trophy two years ago are still at the club and I remember the joy it brought to the players, supporters and everybody associated with the club.
“We’ve enjoyed our little bit of extra time with the trophy (because of the Covid pandemic) and it would be fantastic if we could take it back to the North Coast on Sunday.”
In two spells as Coleraine manager, Kearney has masterminded a number of title challenges. He has also helped the Bannsiders build a reputation as a serious cup team.
The Ballycastle Road men have won 23 of their last 28 outings in senior knockout competitions, lifting the Irish Cup in 2018 and League Cup in 2020 in the process.
“We have a lot of guys here who have big game experience and we hope they can bring that on Sunday,” said Kearney.
“We’re all in football for the big moments and big opportunities and this is another one of those moments and opportunities.
“We have worked hard to get through the four or five rounds so far to reach this point and we have one more step to go to try and retain it.”
Coleraine lifted the League Cup in 2020
(Image: INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)
To keep their hands on the trophy, Coleraine will have to overcome one of the Irish League’s in form sides and a club they have failed to beat in four outings this season.
Cliftonville, in the middle of a title race with the Big Two, have won three and drawn one of those four meetings, including last week’s 2-1 Irish Cup quarter-final win at Solitude.
“I’ve been really impressed by Cliftonville and great credit has to go to Paddy (McLaughlin) and his players,” said Kearney.
“Last season it was us flying the flag for the part-time clubs if you like, hanging in the title race with Linfield and finishing runners-up in the league.
“To be fair to Cliftonville, they have hit that level of consistency that we hit last season and they’re right in there with eight or nine games to go in the title race.”
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