Oran Kearney delighted as Coleraine produce another one of their own

Oran Kearney has always had an eye for spotting a talented young player.

During his tenure at Coleraine he has helped nurture the likes of Lyndon Kane, Brad Lyons and Jamie McGonigle, who have all gone on to have successful footballing careers.

Now the next young star is set to thrive under Kearney's tutelage.

Seventeen-year-old Patrick Kelly has been a player well-known in local circles for a number of years.

Patrick Kelly takes to the field for his full Coleraine debut. PICTURE: David Cavan

He regularly stood out in schools football and has now made his transition to the senior game.

After a number of substitute appearance Kelly was handed his full debut by Kearney in Friday night's game against Larne.

It says everything you need to know about the Portstewart lad that he took playing in a game of that magnitude, in front of the television cameras and a massive crowd of over 3,500 in his stride.

As Kearney said afterwards you could see the young forward grow into the game and have more influence as the match progressed.

He was unlucky not to cap his special night with a memorable goal.

You could see the pride in Kearney's face as he embraced Kelly after taking him off to a standing ovation late on, as the Bannsiders boss and the home support know exactly what it means to have another young, local player coming through on that conveyor belt.

"It's brilliant as a manager to be able to see young players progressing, particularly when he is a local player as well," said the Coleraine boss.

"It was poetic tonight with Lyndon scoring the winning penalty at the Railway End and people hanging out over the rafters and everything else.

"That's what Coleraine Football Club is all about because he is one of their own from the doorstep of the club and everything else.

"It's so hard to find those jewels and to get them coming through because they have such an attachment to the club.

"Patrick is a Portstewart lad, he's been at the club since he was four, and we look forward to hopefully seeing him develop and progress like the other players have done.

"He's just a cub. There was a lot of chat about him when he was 11 or 12.

"It was a similar story to Brad Lyons who disappeared off the radar for a while.

"I remember when we came back after lockdown we were training beside the Under-20s and he walked past me and you could see the development in him so I quickly brought him with me.

"You always knew the technical ability he had. He plays like a 26-year-old.

"His game appreciation, even in training, is so strong, but again it's doing things that are right by him and not hanging him out to dry.

"That's why we've had to put those three or four months of training into him to make sure he's ready.so that when you do something like this you're protecting him, and you're not putting him into a scenario that's tough on him.

"We've put him on in a lot of games with big crowds so he's used to that, and tonight will stand him in good stead."

Some maybe would have felt it was a big gamble to throw a 17-year-old in for his debut against Larne, but Kearney said Kelly had earned his call.

"There was no real thinking about it, he's ready and he's been ready for a period of time," he said.

"I know it's a cliche when you say age is no barrier, but he's trained with us since last April/May time and he's integrated well.

"It's not one of those that you're just throwing someone in because he's been about it, or you're trying to do something different.

"He's earned it. He trains like a demon and is well-respected by all the players in there.

"More than anything though it was allowing him that bit of time to get the gist of the first team changing room and picking that right moment.

"I had this game earmarked from a few weeks ago thinking this would probably be the right one for him, and thankfully so.

"It's okay coming on for cameos with 15 or 20 minutes here and there.

"He grew into the game tonight like you would expect him to do.

"He found it tough at the start, but he is a really strong character with a good mentality.

"He's not loud, but has a real air of self-confidence which you love to see in a player.

"As the game goes on, and particularly in the second half you could see glimpses of the quality we know is there."