Belfast Telegraph

'Come out of the dark ages': Cliftonville boss calls on IFA to stop bans rolling over

 

Change needed: Paddy McLaughlin says the current laws regarding bans carrying into the following season are outdated
Change needed: Paddy McLaughlin says the current laws regarding bans carrying into the following season are outdated

By Conor McLaughlin

Paddy McLaughlin has urged the Irish Football Association to "come out of the dark ages" over suspensions being carried over from one season to the next.

Cliftonville's Danske Bank Premiership encounter with Carrick Rangers tomorrow is the first time that McLaughlin has had a full squad to pick from this term, with Jamie Harney having completed a three-match ban in last weekend's north Belfast derby defeat by Crusaders.

That game marked Garry Breen's return to the team after he was forced to sit out the Reds' opening two fixtures, while striker Ruaidhri Donnelly was suspended for the curtain-raising draw with Coleraine a fortnight back - and McLaughlin believes it's high time disciplinary chiefs amended their protocols.

"Having somebody miss games in one season because of yellow cards they picked up in the previous one is an issue that needs addressed," he insisted.

"If a player picks up a red card, he should have to serve a suspension, I've no issue with that. But with yellow cards, there has to come a point where the slate is wiped clean because, as it stands, you have a situation where a player could get five yellow cards over the course of a year, which means they can't play in the first match of the next season.

"The League of Ireland did away with that rule a few years ago and leagues right around Europe have got rid of it too, but we really need to come out of the dark ages."

Linfield boss David Healy bemoaned the disciplinary process at the end of last season, when he admitted to purposely leaving experienced players out of his team to ensure they wouldn't pick up bookings that would impact on the 2019-20 campaign.

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Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey has also been outspoken on the issue, but what's particularly galling for McLaughlin is that all of his affected players didn't even pick their balance-tipping caution up on league duty.

"All three of them went over the threshold in the Europa League play-offs," he explained.

"So they picked up bookings in matches that other teams in the league were never involved in. If we'd not reached the play-offs, we wouldn't have got these bans. It's like being punished for doing well, to an extent.

"Don't get me wrong, Jamie Harney getting 15 yellow cards over the season isn't a great record for him, but the last one came in the play-off final, meaning he had to miss the first three matches of this year, which just doesn't seem right to me.

"He wasn't fully involved in pre-season because we knew he'd be missing the first lot of games, so he's behind a few other boys and is now playing catch-up.

"I'm sure it's the same for other players at other clubs in the league and there'll be plenty of other managers who want the rule done away with."

With Conor McMenamin and Chris Curran expected to be available after nursing injuries over the past couple of weeks, McLaughlin is looking forward to having greater options to choose from ahead of what he expects to be a stern challenge tomorrow.

"Carrick's tails will be up after getting their first win last Saturday," he added.

"We're not underestimating them in any shape or form. We'll pick a team that we believe will go out and battle and try to play the style of football we want to play.

"We have a good squad here and there's some strong competition for places. There's a lot of young players knocking on the door too and, though it's maybe a bit early in the season for some of them, we'll definitely be seeing them involved in the months ahead."

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