Belfast Telegraph

Where are Irish League clubs taking their footballers on holiday?

By Jim Gracey

Have you ever wondered what Irish League footballers do once the final whistle goes on their season?

Well, they get ready to head to Europe, of course.

The Champions League or Europa League can wait, though. Where the players are going this week they won't need their boots.

The long, dark winter nights spent training in the wind and rain are over and it's time to seek the sun on well-earned end-of-season trips.

In the past Spain has been the preferred destination, with lads' holiday favourite Magaluf or Torremolinos usually the resorts of choice.

But now Portugal has become more popular, and that is where Danske Bank Premiership champions Crusaders and Dungannon Swifts will head this weekend, spending between £300 and £400 on the trip.

Championship side Institute had hoped to have won their promotion/relegation play-off against Ballinamallard United before going to Benidorm, but while the uncertainty over whether that game will even be played rumbles on, they are heading to Spain regardless.

Glentoran went to Portgual after winning the Irish Cup last season, but this year it is Liverpool for them, and a few Coleraine players too - but not the entire squad.

The players from Carrick Rangers will be on Merseyside also. The Seaview stars will fly out on their trip, which is partly funded by internal fines accumulated throughout the season for things like lateness - with the full support of their manager Stephen Baxter - who believes that such ventures have played a good part in their back-to-back title successes.

"Anything that bonds and galvanises and brings them together I am all for," said Baxter, who himself will head to Portugal, but for the more sedate surroundings of a golf course or two.

"A very big reason why we have been successful is because we have looked at things like this and worked on the atmosphere in the changing room," the football boss added.

"We have decided that a couple of times a year - one at Christmas and one at another time during the season - we will do social things. I do believe in it.

"These boys are highly trained and highly charged and it's good for them to let off some steam and get away from the pressure."

While the champions will continue their celebrations in sunnier climes, Irish Cup winners Glenavon will stay at home - because the squad could not come together to arrange a trip.

"We usually do go away, but this year I think it was just a case of nobody took it upon themselves to organise it," said club captain Kris Lindsay.

"There is a bit of talk about heading down to Dublin for a couple of days, but I don't know if it will happen."

There is a similar situation in Coleraine - much to the annoyance of one of their senior stars, Steven Douglas.

The uncertainty over the scheduling of the Premiership's inaugural European play-off matches put paid to the Bannsiders' annual trip.

"We went to Portugal last year, but this is the first time in 10 years that I haven't been away at the end of the season and I'm raging," said Douglas.

"We didn't know when to do it because of the European play-offs. We would usually go away the week after the Irish Cup final, but this year things were up in the air.

"A few of the younger boys are going to Liverpool for a few days, but that's it."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph