NI League Cup final: Coleraine 'hungry for success' ahead of 'mouth-watering' decider - Traynor

David Cushley
Aaron Traynor (right) came back from an ACL injury against Crusaders in September
BetMcLean League Cup final: Crusaders v Coleraine
Date: Saturday 15 February Venue: Windsor Park, Belfast Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Ulster and online, and match report on BBC Sport website

Coleraine full-back Aaron Traynor says his side "are hungry for more success" ahead of Saturday's League Cup final against Crusaders.

The Bannsiders have beaten Crusaders twice this season, although Stephen Baxter's men came out on top in their last encounter in January.

"We'll need to turn up and everyone will just need to go to war to get the best out of it," said Traynor.

"It is the type of game where you can't have three of four people under par."

Both sides are firmly in contention in the Irish Premiership title race and in the Irish Cup quarter-finals, which means victory in Saturday's decider sets up the possibility of a treble.

Coleraine are in second place, two spots ahead of Crusaders, but only one point separates the two title contenders in one of the most keenly-contended seasons in the league's history.

"If we're being honest, we probably would have taken that at the start of the year," said Traynor when asked about Coleraine's treble bid.

"If we can get this trophy then it can maybe give us a bit of a kick-start and a bit of momentum going into the split.

"There are going to be two winning teams, both with winning mentalities, and we're both in good form so that sets everything up for a good game."

Jamie Glackin and Declan Caddell
Crusaders beat Coleraine 1-0 in January's Irish Premiership encounter between the sides

After going through all of January without conceding a goal, Crusaders have let in three in their last two games, but Traynor is wary of underestimating the Seaview side.

"When you look at their defensive unit, they're not shipping many goals," added the 29-year-old.

"Their midfield just run and run for days, and they have the firepower up front. It's a mouth-watering encounter for everyone, either as a neutral or if you are involved in it."

'I've had to adapt again'

After almost a year out with an ACL injury, left back Traynor returned in the Bannsiders' 4-2 win at home to the Crues at the end of September and admits "it was a great comeback".

"I feel like I have kicked on from then. Week by week and month by month I feel like I am getting stronger," he added.

"I feel like I am adapting back to the league again, it's not an easy one to throw yourself back into.

Traynor spent just under a year on the sidelines with an ACL injury
Traynor spent just under a year on the sidelines with an ACL injury

"I'm getting fitter, faster and stronger, plus we're winning games, so I'm happy enough. When we are doing well we bring a big following.

"It's in demand, the fans are hungry and they will have their blue and white colours on to travel down the road."

Taking chances will be key - Baxter

Crusaders boss Baxter, who won the League Cup in 2012 after beating Coleraine, believes there is little to choose between the sides.

"I'm expecting it to be a really, really tight game," said the Crues manager.

"The teams are very evenly matched and I think it will be down to whoever settles better on the day, or takes the big chance when it appears.

"Both teams have match winners and very capable players, so I think it will be a great occasion. We've still got quite a bit of the season left to play, so win, lose or draw there is still an awful lot to play for.

"In saying that, you'd like to put a trophy on the board early doors and hopefully that will spring us forward onto whatever is in front of us."

Stephen Baxter and Oran Kearney
Baxter got the better of Kearney in the 2012 League Cup final at the Ballymena Showgrounds

Oran Kearney was in charge of Coleraine when Crusaders triumphed in his sole League Cup final to date and, despite a brief stint managing St. Mirren in the Scottish Premiership, Baxter feels like the former Linfield midfielder "was never away",

"When Oran started his managerial career at Limavady, he was on the phone with me looking for some advice," added the 54-year-old.

"I struck up a relationship with Oran early doors. I just find him a really good fella, he knows his football and it doesn't surprise me that he has done so well in the game.

"He's still very young and he looks like he could still play. Relationships between clubs are very important and we have a great one with Coleraine.

"We're looking forward to the game and may the best team win."