Four of the the Irish League’s top players have been denied a dream date with Manchester United next week.
The Red Devils will fly into Belfast next week to take on an Irish League Select team in a testimonial game for Harry Gregg at Windsor Park.
The Irish League side, however, won’t be at full strength after three clubs failed to reach agreements with organisers over insuring players.
It is understood that Glentoran duo Stephen Carson and Sean Ward were being considered for selection by Martin O’Neill and David Jeffrey — who will jointly manage the team — along with Glenavon player-manager Gary Hamilton and Ryan Henderson, who has signed a pre-contract to join Linfield from Donegal Celtic.
Many players across the Irish League play without insurance cover, which can cost in excess of £20,000 for an entire first-team squad.
While some players may have been willing to play at their own risk it is understood that such a situation wasn’t deemed to be suitable by organisers.
“One of my roles as the secretary to the Harry Gregg testimonial committee was to contact all 12 Irish Premier League clubs on behalf of Martin O’Neill and David Jeffrey,” said John White, who is also secretary of the Carryduff Manchester United Supporters Club, the organisers of the game.
“I wrote to ask two key questions. Firstly if Martin and David wanted to select one of their players would they kindly make that player available? And secondly if the player was selected would the club cover the costs of the player’s insurance?
“With the different time frames and different deadlines to be met I only got agreement with nine of the 12 Irish Premier League clubs, unfortunately three had to be omitted.
“It wasn’t David Jeffrey’s decision, it was the decision of the Harry Gregg testimonial committee, but we treated everyone fairly we gave deadlines and for whatever reasons some insurances weren’t affected in time or made available.
“Therefore we had to exclude three clubs and ask David to chose from the other nine.”
While Jeffrey was forced to overlook players from Glentoran and Donegal Celtic — Glenavon last night insisted that the Lurgan club had given permission for their players to be selected — the Linfield boss is confident that those who buy a ticket for the game at Windsor Park on Tuesday will still get value for money.
“If we’re being brutally frank and honest people are coming here to see Manchester United,” said Jeffrey.
“We’re just the opposition — and I mean that with all respect — but it is vitally important that we get a good representation from the Irish League and from the clubs who were able to make their players available.”
The Harry Gregg testimonial game is almost a sell-out, with less than 1,000 tickets remaining via Ticketmaster as of last night. Any tickets that are left will go on sale at the Millbrook Lodge Hotel, Ballynahinch on Saturday morning, between 10am and 12 noon.