Belfast Telegraph

It would be a disaster for our game if Glentoran got relegated: Dornan

By Graham Luney

Linfield legend Alan Dornan says he hopes Glentoran get their act together and he also feels the nightmare scenario of the east Belfast side suffering relegation from the Danske Bank Premiership would be a "complete disaster for Irish League football".

The Glens slumped to a ninth-place finish last season and the fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned while their old enemy Linfield sit at the summit of the domestic game, toasting title glory and cherishing a lifetime of memories from their Champions League clashes with Celtic.

Glens boss Gary Haveron, who succeeded Alan Kernaghan in September, was assigned the task of reviving the club's fortunes but they have struggled to strengthen this summer and their pre-season form has been uninspiring.

A 3-0 defeat at home to Amateur League side East Belfast this week has sounded alarm bells, particularly as it followed a 2-1 defeat to Dundela and 2-2 draw with Rathfriland Rangers, while a young Glentoran side overcame Orangefield Old Boys 5-3.

Oval chiefs understand that the Glens don't have a divine right to win anything but the club that has won 23 Irish League titles and 22 Irish Cups is expected to challenge for the game's top prizes, not fear the dreaded drop.

The team will be judged when the league action gets under way on August 12 while a friendly at home to Linfield today (3pm) is an opportunity to send out a signal that there's no need to panic.

But the fans seem to be feeling more fear than optimism as the season approaches and Linfield Swifts boss Dornan, who relished the Big Two battles, hopes the Glens can turn the corner.

"I'm old enough to remember taking on some fantastic Glentoran players like Barney Bowers, Jim Cleary, Billy Caskey, Raymond Morrison and Gary Blackledge," said Dornan, who won 18 trophies with the Blues.

"The Glens had great teams over the years and while it's none of my business what is happening, sometimes things come in cycles and they can rise again, perhaps with an influx of younger players. I've played in good and bad Linfield teams, I know times change and there's a time to rebuild.

"I'm a Blueman but I do believe, 100 per cent, that the Irish League needs a strong Glentoran team. You only have to think of the Boxing Day games and the noise and the colour of them as well as the revenue generated. Linfield and the Glens are still the Big Two in terms of history and support.

"I don't believe the Glens will suffer relegation and if they did it would be a complete disaster for Irish League football. We need a good Glens team in there. Linfield went through a lean spell there before they won the title again and the Glens can regroup.

"I always looked forward to Big Two games and even though the game this weekend has been dubbed a friendly, there's no such thing when the sides meet. Teams go through difficult times but they can emerge stronger."

Haveron will no doubt have a few sleepless nights as he invests significant time and energy into finding the winning formula and former Crusaders boss Dornan knows there can be no hiding place in the dugout.

"I've been there and I know what it's like when the tough times arrive, you have to dig in, work hard and keep believing in what you are doing," said Dornan, who won five league titles at Windsor Park. "The fans will be unhappy at the pre-season results but you can't read too much into those. They don't mean anything and will be forgotten if the team start well. Pre-season is all about trying different systems and building match fitness.

"I don't believe the fans should be panicking. They should be judged on the games that matter. I know there can be deep frustration but it's important to stay calm, get the head down and work hard, while believing in your own ability."

While the Glens are searching for inspiration, the Linfield swagger is back and their European dates with Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles were a fitting reward for a thrilling Championship win.

With last season's treble leaving David Healy and his men dancing on the streets of south Belfast, the champions are back in the groove and they have looked a class act in pre-season too.

Dornan, who likes to think his glass is always half full, is optimistic about Linfield's chances of building on their success.

"I'm always optimistic and the team are playing well," he added. "They had a good run in Europe and a number of players are getting game time in pre-season. The boys are working very hard and their focus is always on the start of the league.

"The gaffer has organised a lot of matches and the squad is looking good."

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