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Dungannon defender is the latest to slam Irish League's packed festive fixture diary

 

By Adrian Rutherford

Dungannon Swifts defender Christopher Hegarty has branded the Irish League's packed festive fixture programme a joke.

From Saturday, clubs will play four times in just 10 days.

The punishing schedule has already come under fire from managers, who feel it could put players at risk of injury.

And Hegarty, who combines his football career with working at Cuba menswear in Dungannon, feels it is an unfair burden.

The defender, who played for Millwall and Rangers, said players here do not have the facilities to juggle a schedule similar to the one that has been criticised by English Premier League bosses.

The 25-year-old said: "The fact you're playing Saturday and then Monday or Tuesday both weekends - four games in 10 days - as a semi-professional footballer, it's a bit of a joke.

"Not everyone gets off over the Christmas period - myself, I'm working over Christmas.

"When I was across the water you got well looked after, you got all the treatment. You were in every day, it was your main, sole focus.

"Now you have other things to worry about. You have work going on, you are out and about and you don't get the same recovery level.

"We also don't have the same squads as clubs across the water have. So personally I think it's a bit of a joke, but that's the way it is and I will go out and play any game and give 110%.

"It doesn't bother me, but I think in hindsight it needs to be looked at. Maybe the people who organised it haven't played football before. I think they need to look at it for future seasons."

After a round of matches on Saturday, clubs are back in action on Tuesday for the traditional Boxing Day programme.

Another set of games are scheduled for December 31, with a fourth set for January 1 and 2.

Dungannon boss Rodney McAree and Linfield manager David Healy are among those to speak out against the congested fixture list.

While the busy programme has been criticised, it does offer clubs the chance to really boost their points tally.

Dungannon face Glenavon, Ballinamallard, Glentoran and Carrick Rangers.

Hegarty added: "We've a lot of games coming up over the Christmas period and we want to be taking as many points as possible.

"They are all winnable games and it gives us the chance to push up the table."

After narrow losses at Linfield and Coleraine, Dungannon were frustrated by Ards last weekend.

They were held 0-0 in a forgettable match, and Hegarty admitted they allowed two points to slip away.

"We had come out of our previous two games a wee bit disappointed, albeit we put in good performances," he added.

"I think we could have given a wee bit more in certain areas on Saturday, but there is no point looking back.

"We just have to look forward to Glenavon on Saturday, which is a massive game - a Mid-Ulster derby."

• In the Bluefin Sport Championship last night Portadown thrashed Dergview 7-0 while Loughall defeated Institute 3-1.

Hectic holidays

Friday, December 22

Crusaders v Ballymena United, Warrenpoint Town v Coleraine

Saturday, December 23

Ards v Ballinamallard United, Carrick Rangers v Glentoran, Dungannon Swifts v Glenavon, Linfield v Cliftonville

Boxing Day

Ards v Carrick Rangers, Ballinamallard United v Dungannon Swifts, Coleraine v Ballymena United, Crusaders v Cliftonville, Glenavon v Warrenpoint Town, Glentoran v Linfield

Friday, December 29

Carrick Rangers v Ballinamallard United

Saturday, December 30

Ballymena United v Glenavon, Cliftonville v Coleraine, Dungannon Swifts v Glentoran, Linfield v Crusaders, Warrenpoint Town v Ards

New Year's Day

Ballinamallard United v Crusaders, Carrick Rangers v Dungannon Swifts, Coleraine v Linfield

Tuesday, January 2

Ards v Glenavon, Cliftonville v Ballymena United, Glentoran v Warrenpoint Town

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