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Kennedy wants summer switch for Irish League clubs

Irish FA President Raymond Kennedy last night asked Irish FA Premiership clubs to consider radical changes to the structure of the local game if they want to perform better in Europe.

Kennedy is also a close follower of the League of Ireland and sees the success of their clubs in European competitions as evidence of what summer football can achieve on the continent.

Glentoran’s 6-0 hammering at the hands of Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa rubbed salt into the wounds after Linfield and Lisburn Distillery suffered the two heaviest aggregate defeats in the opening round of the Europa League a week ago.

Crusaders won some pride back and will travel to Macedonia next week with hope after a 1-1 draw against Rabotnicki, but they must score away from home, which no Irish League team has managed in Europe this season.

In contrast Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City all drew 1-1 in the opening legs of their respective European games and with Bohs and the Candystripes having home advantage next week and an away goal under their belts they will be fancied to progress.

Results like that are something that our teams can only dream of with just one win each for Glentoran and Linfield in the mainstream European competitions in the last 14 years.

“There isn’t a level playing field in Europe and our teams are under prepared for that level of football,” admitted Kennedy.

“It isn’t feasible for them to be properly prepared for matches in early July when they have had a month off before they start training again for European matches and are going in with maybe only one match behind them.

“Teams in the League of Ireland have definitely benefited from playing in the summer and to me that is the only way that our results in Europe will improve.

“When you see that Derry City, Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic all drew and Sligo Rovers, who were in Europe for the first time, only lost by one goal, the results speak for themselves.

“They are in the middle of their season and are much better prepared.

“A draw in Europe has to be considered a good result no matter who the opposition are.

“It may be hard to change the season, but why not try it and if it doesn’t work it can be changed back and we’ll try to come up with something else.

“The Danes and the Georgians haven’t started their seasons yet, but are still ahead of our clubs, so we have to try to close the gap somehow.

“It would be interesting to see how their preparations differ.

“A few years ago our teams had a couple of wins against Icelandic opposition. It would be interesting to go up against them and see how much they have caught up.”

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