Belfast Telegraph

Linfield boss Jeffrey is a fan of Setanta Cup

By Graham Luney

David Jeffrey has jumped to the defence of the Setanta Sports Cup, saying he remains a fan of the competition and he hopes it can survive.

The all-Ireland club tournament has taken a battering from critics this season and it’s widely acknowledged that its current format isn’t working.

Fears that the tournament would disappear when the Irish broadcaster fell into administration were not realised but that hasn’t been the only bump on a rocky road.

Derry City were expelled from the competition after slipping into administration and the same fate could well await Cork City after they were wound up in the High Court after a plan to take over the debts of the Leeside club was thwarted.

Jeffrey has fond memories of masterminding a victory in the inaugural 2005 tournament but domestic honours will remain his top priority.

Ahead of his side’s trip to take on St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park in Dublin tonight, the Blues boss is not ready to concede that the competition has no future.

“Obviously your domestic league is of paramount importance and as much maligned as the Setanta competition has become this year, it is a trophy that is very important and dear to us,” said Jeffrey.

“I do think it has got to be retained — it is a fantastic competition. The idea behind it is first class and it would be a crying shame if it went to the wall.

“It has priority, though not the same as a league. We aren’t going to St Pat’s simply to fulfil a fixture.

“It is important but it’s hard to say what the right format is. The most difficult thing is the competing seasons and I’m not sure how we will ever sort that out.

“At one stage I was an advocate for Saturday games and giving players time to prepare for matches and fans time to travel to games. But maybe I didn’t think far enough because it can affect your league programme and the cold weather we have had has made the situation worse.

“I’m just not sure how we can put the square into a round hole as the two competing seasons exist.

“People may say we have an advantage as they are starting their season and vice versa when they were coming to the end of their season. Although I do feel the competition should be retained, we have to be careful it does not disrupt our domestic season.”

Jeffrey added: “JP Gallagher will not feature against St Pat’s and I may make one or two more changes. Some players will need a rest as we have a tough schedule ahead.”

Jeffrey’s men go into the Setanta battle with a spring in their step after underlining their hunger for the title with a crucial 2-0 victory over Crusaders.

“Crusaders were deserved winners in the County Antrim Shield final but we played some fantastic football this week, going forward and creating chances,” he added. “We kept our shape, discipline and stayed solid.”

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