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Championship season must get going as planned in August for the good of everyone: McGurgan


Ciaran McGurgan

Ciaran McGurgan

Ciaran McGurgan

Annagh United manager Ciaran McGurgan has stated that the Northern Ireland Football League Championship season must start as planned on August 7 for the good of all involved.

McGurgan was speaking after his side put in an exceptional performance against Linfield in the first round of the Irish Cup on Tuesday night, giving the champions a scare before eventually losing 2-0 at Windsor Park.

With clubs below the top tier not granted elite status due to Covid-19 restrictions, Annagh have not played a league game in over a year but they still caused the Blues more problems on their first visit to the national stadium than many Irish Premiership sides this season.

It was a display to be proud of and, but for Linfield goalkeeper Chris Johns pulling off a wonder save to keep out Stephen Acheson, the underdogs would have taken a first-half lead prior to second-half strikes from Andy Waterworth and Shayne Lavery.

Unless the Mid-Ulster Cup resumes, with Annagh in the semi-finals, the next competitive clash for McGurgan's men is scheduled for early August in the Championship. Given that Annagh were promoted from the Premier Intermediate League (PIL) after last season was brought to a premature halt because of the pandemic, everyone at the club is desperate for the new campaign to kick-off.

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"It is massively important that the Championship goes ahead," said McGurgan.

"The way our boys conducted themselves against Linfield on and off the pitch, there is no reason why our club cannot be given elite status to play the season, and I would say the same for all Championship and Premier Intermediate League clubs. I think they all deserve that and to be able to play every week.

"We haven't played a Championship match yet. I know we are a Championship team but we are just out of the PIL and we were representing the PIL and the Championship against Linfield."

Proud of his players, McGurgan added he was delighted the club went ahead with the game after other Championship sides withdrew from the Irish Cup.

"Our boys have had a really tough year but the way they were feeling after the match was incredible. If we hadn't have played they would still have been sitting at home. After the match the boys were ecstatic to have played," said the Annagh boss.

"I was so proud of the boys and their performance. They were brilliant."

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