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David Jeffrey: It's a crazy Irish League season but we must remember how privileged we are to be playing at all

Danske Bank Premiership

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Happy days: David Jeffrey is grateful to be involved in football

Happy days: David Jeffrey is grateful to be involved in football

Happy days: David Jeffrey is grateful to be involved in football

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey accepts the Danske Bank Premiership season may have to be cut short but he's determined to make the most of this precious time while the game continues.

The top flight is rumbling on with Covid-19 testing and matches played behind closed doors, but a 38-game league campaign is a big ask, especially if the Irish Cup matches are played.

The Round-of-32 ties were due to go ahead last month but the Irish FA was unable to secure elite status for it.

After Covid-19 outbreaks and a two week circuit breaker, now the cold and wet winter weather has led to postponements and there's a busy schedule ahead.

The Sky Blues lost to Crusaders at Seaview on Saturday in a hastily arranged fixture after Friday's Showgrounds clash was called off after persistent rain.

"I don't think there's any doubt the league could be shortened, especially if the Irish Cup is played," said Jeffrey.

"If we were to keep the Crusaders match as a home game, it would have been called off until it could be played later.

"But we want games played, so in my mind let's play as many games as we possibly can and keep going forward. At this moment in time the emphasis is on the league, there are so many anomalies with the Irish Cup and that is for others to determine.

"It has been a crazy season, without a shadow of doubt, but the base line is we are privileged to be called elite athletes and privileged to be allowed to play, and that is what you have got to remember."

United lost 2-1 to the Crues in a game played in stormy conditions and fears over similar weather have led to tonight's clash with Cliftonville being switched from the Showgrounds to Solitude.

"Things are going against us but we have to keep going and apply ourselves on Tuesday," said Jeffrey, whose side will instead host the Reds in the reverse fixture next Tuesday night.

"It's another game against Cliftonville who are coming off the back of a great result (Saturday's 1-0 win over Larne).

"We have a lot of young players and this is all about learning and developing and getting better, I couldn't be more proud of them.

"But it's difficult to get into your stride. I had a conversation with Paul McElroy during the week and we were talking about getting a run and pattern going but it is tough.

"I've said to the players we are very fortunate to be playing, so we take the opportunities that are given.

"We want to get games on and we are going with what we have, our squad is being tested but we will give our best."

Jeffrey doesn't need a lesson in football's fine margins and, while disappointed not to leave Seaview with at least a point, he took comfort in his side's spirited showing.

"It was crazy conditions. Maybe we could have cleared the ball before (Jamie) McGonigle got his shot away but the wind blew it in," said Jeffrey.

"You have a freakish goal like that and the ball fell to (Paul) Heatley for the second and you have to give credit to him for the finish."

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Crusaders ace Paul Heatley

Crusaders ace Paul Heatley

Crusaders ace Paul Heatley

• THE NI Football League have confirmed that, following the extension of government restrictions, Saturday, March 13 will no longer be an Irish Cup day and that all Danske Bank Premiership fixtures scheduled for April 17 will be brought forward.

In addition, next Tuesday's Big Two clash between Glentoran and Linfield at The Oval will be the first of nine Premiership games to be broadcast by the BBC in March.

The Glens' trip to Carrick Rangers on March 5 will also be live streamed as will Ballymena's home tie with Larne the following day.

Crusaders' encounter with Linfield on the 19th will, meanwhile, be live on television.

Belfast Telegraph


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