Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Bigots don't bother me says McAreavey

Paul McAreavey last night insisted that he won't be put off his game by anything that is shouted from the terraces.

Linfield manager David Jeffrey spoke out after last Saturday's opening CIS Cup clash against Ballymena United, accusing visiting fans of chanting sectarian abuse at members of his team.

McAreavey is one of a number of Catholic players in the current Linfield side, with the club's unwritten rule of only signing Protestants long since done away with following the signings of Dessie Gorman and Pat Fenlon in the early 1990s and Jeffrey claims that he now has the most mixed playing staff in Ireland.

"I am at Linfield to play football and that is all that I concentrate on and care about," said McAreavey.

"There are things shouted from the stands in every game that might be personal or sectarian or whatever, but I don't listen, I just get on with the game.

"I am enjoying my football and nothing that anybody shouts at me will get in the way of that."

McAreavey has made himself an integral part of the Linfield side over the last three seasons.

He is one of the first names on Jeffrey's team-sheet every week, but he is well aware that any drop in his level of performance could lead to a seat on the bench, or even worse, in the stand.

Last weekend Tim Mouncey came off the bench to score the final goal in a 5-1 win over Ballymena United and he is just one player who is pushing for a slot in Jeffrey's midfield, although the team is expected to be unchanged for this afternoon's trip to Dungannon Swifts.

"We have started the season well with two good performances in the Champions League matches against Elfsborg and then beating Ballymena last week," said McAreavey.

"Everyone in the dressing room is buzzing. There are so many good players who aren't getting into the team and that can only be a good thing.

" Anyone in the squad can come into the team and it will be just as strong.

"This is definitely the strongest squad that we have had since I've been at the club.

"Damien Curran has come in this summer and he is a different class.

"There are some really good young players coming through as well, like Stephen Garrett, who can't get a look in because there is so much quality around and there are a couple more like him. "

In order to keep his place in the team, McAreavey is training harder than ever before so that he can be in tip top condition to fend off the intense competition.

"I don't think I have ever trained as hard as I have done since we came back for pre-season," he said.

"I am maturing and although I am not 27 until December I know that I don't have too many years left.

"I want to make the most of the rest of my career and as well as that, I know that even though I am full-time, I will be dropped if I am not doing the business."

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