Belfast Telegraph

Our stars worth a gamble: Glentoran boss Kernaghan

By Stuart McKinley

Alan Kernaghan believes clubs in England and Scotland are missing out on talent in Northern Ireland because they choose to ignore the Irish League.

The Glentoran manager is urging those who do have scouts keeping tabs on the local game to be more adventurous when it comes to considering whether or not they should take a punt on players who catch the eye.

And for those hoping to get a break in the full-time game, Kernaghan, who himself left Northern Ireland for Middlesbrough at the age of 16, is telling them to take one look at Michael O'Neill's international squad - which contains a number of ex-Irish League players - for inspiration.

Just six weeks into his reign as Glens boss, Kernaghan is still learning about the Irish League, but the standard has impressed him, which is why he thinks that the domestic game is a pathway to better things.

"This is a league that has largely been neglected by people across the water," said Kernaghan, ahead of facing Cliftonville at The Oval today.

"I look at players like Stuart Dallas and Liam Boyce as great examples of the talent that is here.

"Those boys have done very well and Stuart Dallas is now a £1m player within three years of leaving the Irish League. He is a regular now in the international team too and will be in the squad for Euro 2016.

"That talent needs nurtured and clubs should maybe take a gamble."

Jordan Stewart is one player who did get the full-time move he was dreaming of when he left Glentoran for Swindon Town in August.

The 20-year-old has played in the first team, but has also struggled to settle in Wiltshire.

Stewart left The Oval more than two months before Kernaghan took over, but had their paths crossed the new boss would have advised the youngster that despite getting his big break, there is still more to do.

"It's one thing standing out here, once they go they need to have an open mindset about what they do and not think that the hard work is done," said Kernaghan.

"It's not like that, in fact it's the opposite. Once you get across that's when the hard work starts because there are so many other players there already that you have to compete with.

"The carrot is enormous and you need to have a huge amount of determination. Too many come back too quickly and nobody wants to see that happen."

Glentoran's early form under Kernaghan has been up and down. After losing in his first two games in charge the Glens then picked up seven points out of nine in the next three before going down 5-3 in a thriller at Portadown on Monday night.

"We played Cliftonville before, now we have them at our place and we are better equipped," said Kernaghan.

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