Coleraine manager Oran Kearney.
COLERAINE manager Oran Kearney says his players are 'in a good place' as they look to continue their European adventure against Motherwell this evening.
The Ballymoney man admitted there was a good vibe among the squad during a press conference at the Showgrounds on Wednesday evening.
That stems from the team's defeat of crack Slovenian outfit Maribor in the previous round, a win which made the rest of Europe sit up and take notice.
“I'm glad the Maribor game was two weeks ago and this game didn't come a week later,” said Oran.
“It's probably taken a few of our lads time to recover physically and mentally so it has been nice to get reset again.
“But we're now back to a level where we need to be,” he added.
Kearney believes his players must reach the same heights as they did in Slovenia to have any chance of defeating the Scottish Premier League side outfit.
The Ballycastle schoolteacher knows all about The Steelmen from his spell in charge at St. Mirren and the team's manager, fellow Northern Ireland man Stephen Robinson.
“I get on great with Stephen, so it's an interesting tie from that point of view,” admitted Oran.
“We spent a lot of time travelling together when I was in Scotland and those were great times when you look back.
“All the Northern Ireland managers were very good to me when I was over there - Stephen, in particular, was brilliant - and we still have a really good friendship 'till this day.
"I'm indebted to him for the help and the words he had for me and I'm sure we'll remain friends for a long time.
“But the minute the ball goes over the line we all fight our own corner and Thursday will be no different.
“There's mutual respect there but, as a club, we're in uncharted territory and the last couple of weeks has given everyone a real taste for it.
“I don't think the players want it to stop so it's about going out again and making sure that we hit that level to give ourselves a chance.”
What has helped, ironically, is Covid and the ensuing interruption to the season.
While Coleraine could normally have expected to be competing in Europe on the back of just a few short weeks of pre-season training at the height of summer, this time around they are much better prepared having been training for around three months and played a number of competitive matches.
The fact that ties are one-legged affairs also helps believes Oran.
“In my experiences as a manager and as a player in the Irish League we've never been in a better position in relation to fitness and sharpness,” he continued.
“The one-legged nature and the win at all costs, everything up for grabs nature of the game, very much suits the underdogs or the unseeded team and it certainly helped us in Maribor.
“Probably the only Covid thing that has gone against us is having no supporters at the games.
“With it being such a local tie I would have no doubt that Motherwell would have brought a load of fans and we'd have packed the place out as well.
“For people who haven't been here - when there's 3-400 people here and it's packed to the rafters, it can sound like 15-20,000 - and it's a real electric place to be.
“From that point of view it's disappointing that people won't get to experience it but I'm glad it's being shown on TV.”
And what can those watching the live stream on the BBC NI Sport website expect?
“Clearly on statistics, on full-time and part-time, seeded and unseeded, coeffecient, finishing third in the Scottish League and everything that goes with it, I think there's very few arguments out there to try and say we would be favourites.
“The Maribor game was exactly the same. That's the beauty of football and the reason we're all in the game because stats are stats but games of football are played out there and won and lost out there.
“The big demands we're making of everyone this week is that they go and hit the same performance level - in concentration and attitude and work-rate - that we got in Maribor.
“If we get that then anything can happen.”