Irish Premiership: Healy looks forward to pitting his wits against Kearney again

Oran Kearney and David Healy will be back in opposing dugouts at Windsor Park on Saturday
Oran Kearney and David Healy will be back in opposing dugouts at Windsor Park on Saturday

Linfield manager David Healy says he is looking forward to pitting his wits against returning Coleraine boss Oran Kearney again in Saturday's Irish Premiership game at Windsor Park.

"To have Oran back is great for the league," said Healy on BBC Sport NI's Irish League Behaviour podcast.

"He kept a St Mirren team up who for large parts of the season looked like they were going to be relegated.

"He experienced a tough season but came out the other end so credit to him."

"I look forward to welcoming Oran back but it will be a tough game - Coleraine always give us a difficult game at Windsor Park," added Healy.

The defending league champions face a massive two-legged tie with Azerbaijan champions Qarabag in a play-off for the Europa League group stages over the coming weeks but Healy says his players' attention will initially be focused solely on overcoming Coleraine.

"If we don't show them the respect they deserve - if we switch off or think we're only playing Coleraine off the back of a couple of really tough games in Europe - then Coleraine will punish us.

"They have two or three of their injured players from last season back and I'm sure Oran will look forward to coming back to Windsor Park on the back of some positive results he has had here.

"The last time he was here as a manager he won the Irish Cup so he'll have good memories of that and it's a challenge we look forward to."

Niall Quinn
Niall Quinn scored in Linfield's 3-2 comeback win over Coleraine at Windsor Park in February

Healy points to a 3-2 comeback home win for over the Bannsiders in February as a turning point in his side's bid to re-claim the league championship last term but also reflects on a defeat inflicted by Saturday's opponents earlier in the campaign as a warning to his troops.

"They gave us the runaround in a game last year and beat us 2-1 when we were very poor and were out-played," recalls Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.

"Then we were probably fortunate to come from 2-0 down to beat them 3-2. That victory gave the players and myself the belief that we were in there fighting for the title."

'Five or six changes'

The depth of Linfield's squad this season means they had the luxury of naming the likes of Jimmy Callacher, Andrew Waterworth, Joel Cooper, Jordan Stewart, Daniel Kearns and Andy Mitchell among the substitutes for Tuesday night's Europa League qualifier triumph over FK Sutjeska.

"We had lads with huge experience in the Irish League on the bench on Tuesday so five or six of those will probably play on Saturday," revealed Healy.

"For me it's a positive to have players of that quality who can come in and play when called upon.

"There will be two or three of those who have played most of the European games and also started against Institute on Saturday who may drop out on Saturday."