Coleraine tonight have announced Dungannon Swifts manager Rodney McAree as their new boss following the departure of Oran Kearney to St Mirren last week. Incidentally, at the time of writing Kearney’s new side have just held Scottish champions Celtic to a 0-0 draw.
McAree joins Coleraine on a two and a half year contract and unlike his predecessor, he will be taking up the position on a full-time basis, something Coleraine had already said would be the case earlier this week.
Dungannon have had a tough start to this season, finding themselves second bottom of the table and having taken only two points from a possible 15, but McAree has generally done a good job with the Swifts since taking over from Darren Murphy October 2015. He has guided them from being a side regularly battling relegation to a solid mid-table outfit and he also brought Dungannon’s first ever senior trophy to Stangmore Park as they beat Ballymena United at Windsor Park to win the League Cup earlier this year.
This is not the first time McAree has attracted the attention of other suitors as he reportedly held talks with Glentoran over the summer about their then vacant manager’s post but opted to remain with his beloved Dungannon at that time.
In contrast to Dungannon, Coleraine have picked up where they left off last season as they have enjoyed an unbeaten start and currently sit in 2nd spot, three points behind Linfield but having played a game less. With the Bannsiders form over the past 18 months and their start this time around, some people are beginning to wonder if McAree’s new side can do when they so narrowly missed out on doing last season and bring the Gibson Cup outside of Belfast for the first time since the 2001/02 season (Portadown won the title that season if you were wondering).
When Coleraine began the search for a new manager earlier this week there were many names being thrown about in the media including former Coleraine players Tony Gorman and Steve Lomas, Derry City manager, and the departing manager’s father-in-law, Kenny Shiels and some supporters were keen for Kearney’s right-hand men, William Murphy and Trevor McKendry, to take charge to keep things running in a similar fashion.
I personally had thought Coleraine might look outside Irish League circles for a new man to take charge but did suspect that if they considered anyone from the domestic scene it would be McAree, along with Glenavon’s Gary Hamilton and Ballymena’s David Jeffrey.
Coleraine have said that McAree was their first choice for the job and they were keen to ensure he was appointed quickly and while he may not have been the first name to spring to some people’s mind it’s not difficult to see why McAree was top of the Coleraine hierarchy’s shortlist. Much like the departing Kearney, he is a young, likeable manager with a vast knowledge of football in general and the Irish League. McAree has regularly been able to get the best out of the group of players at his disposal, bring young players through into the first team and has also had to deal with losing key players to ‘bigger’ clubs in his time with the Swifts. These are all skills that Kearney showed in abundance in his time on the north-coast and no doubt form part of the reason he was so successful and while the Coleraine board would seek to make an appointment that may replicate that.
McAree also brings the added bonus of being familiar with a full-time setup having been a player with Liverpool, Fulham and Bristol City and he was also heavily involved with the youth side of football in Dungannon and this will stand him in good stead at his new role.
McAree will now be facing a great deal of pressure as he is joining a club where he has no previous pedigree, he had spent the majority of his playing career at his boyhood club Dungannon and was revered by supporters, and were success has come to be expected but I have no doubt that he will relish the task ahead of him as he prepares to move from a potential relegation battle to a title challenge. One thing Coleraine had insisted on regardless of who took up the position was that the previous backroom staff would remain in place so this should ease the transition somewhat as well.
McAree will be on a watching brief today as his new side travel to the Bangor Fuels Arena to take on Colin Nixon’s Ards, the aforementioned Murphy and McKendry will be taking charge of the game before McAree takes full charge next week.