Coleraine's Kearney in welcome for summer switch and All Ireland league plan
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney has welcomed discussions over a radical shake-up of the domestic game but is wary of embracing significant change too quickly.
Irish League football could be set for an historic move with plans under way to implement an All Ireland league or switch the season to the summer months.
Larne, Crusaders, Linfield, Coleraine, Cliftonville and Glentoran have spoken of the benefits of a full-time professional game and the need to keep raising standards has been reinforced by the loss of a European place due to a disappointing Uefa coefficient.
A working group is exploring the possibility of a new All Ireland league with former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr and hi-tech businessman Kieran Lucid driving the project, backed by significant investment and a promise of TV money.
While that proposal is assessed, clubs are more open to the prospect of moving the season over the summer months. The League of Ireland moved to summer football in 2003 and there are clear benefits in terms of having a competitive edge for European battles.
Kearney, who has returned to Coleraine after helping St Mirren retain their Scottish Premiership status, welcomes talks aimed at raising standards and generating fresh income.
"With regard to the summer move I'm not in favour to jumping into a complete change in the way the set-up is in the south.
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"But when you look at the way our Uefa coefficient has fallen and how we've lost a European place it's important to have that discussion and it can be good for the game," argued the former Linfield ace.
"I welcome the consultation and hope we can come to a solution that suits everyone but raises the standard of the league and that coefficient. The All Ireland league is another interesting concept though I feel it's important not to jump into anything," he added.
“I think the conversation, again, is highly important. It’s good to see that happening and it will be interesting to see what comes of it,” Kearney said.
“Clubs can go full-time and professional with backing and money. Let’s be honest, that’s the key thing that will determine whether it can work or not. If you are asking guys to give up their jobs you will have to pay them full-time wages.
“Like a lot of things in life, it will come down to money.”
Kearney is back on familiar ground after his eventful adventure in Scotland and while that chapter in his career came to a disappointing end he’s not even thinking about the prospect of managing in England or Scotland again.
“It’s not something at the forefront of my mind,” he reflects. “It’s been a tough few weeks. I’m back working again and keen to crack on. I’m not doing the Coleraine job with a view to get away again, I’m just glad to be back working again and keen to do a good job.
“Family commitments had zero issue at St Mirren, simple as that. Family have been very supportive and coped well with the set-up we had there. Family is highly important and will always be at the forefront of my thoughts but in relation to managing elsewhere it’s never been an issue with regard to decision making.”
Kearney could lose striker Jamie McGonigle after Crusaders tabled a bid for the player that was accepted but he would prefer if a Seaview ace was added into the deal to see it go through.
While the McGonigle saga has been an unwelcome headache, he has other big calls to make regarding his panel.
“I’m aware of a huge number of the squad,” he says. “A few left before I arrived and the numbers are still slightly high. I would like to work off around 20 players and it would be nice to get there with a few additions. The last week or so has been a whirlwind and following the friendlies I’ll make alterations as we go.
“We have the same backroom team and it’s a positive knowing the guys. It’s the opposite of what I faced at St Mirren where I didn’t know anyone. I know everyone at Coleraine and that should make the transition quick and smooth.”