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Festive schedule is absolute madness: McAree

By Adrian Rutherford

Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree has warned that the "ludicrous" festive fixture programme is putting players at risk of injury.

Irish League teams play four times in 10 days over the Christmas and New Year period.

Several managers have already voiced their concerns over the heavy demands on part-time players.

McAree believes the number of matches is an unfair burden on clubs.

"You look at the Christmas period and it's absolute madness that part-time players are expected to play four times in 10 days," he said.

"Footballers shouldn't be under that pressure, especially as it's a time when many are hoping for a few days with their families.

"It just looks as though they are trying to cram as many matches in as possible."

Dungannon host Glenavon in a mid-Ulster derby on December 23. On Boxing Day they travel to Ballinamallard, before closing the year at home to Glentoran on December 30.

Then on January 1 they travel to Carrick Rangers.

Most other clubs face a similar punishing run, and McAree believes it is beyond reasonable.

He added: "We play the Saturday before Christmas, then again on the Boxing Day. We've then 48 hours before we go to Carrick for our fourth game in 10 days.

"It's ludicrous but we just have to get on with it. I can't see it changing at this stage."

McAree is concerned about the toll the heavy schedule could take on squads.

"There is no doubt a run like that risks injuries," he added.

"At Dungannon we have a smaller squad than most and playing so many games in a short space of time takes its toll."

Before all of that, Dungannon take on Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership this afternoon.

It is a chance to get back on track after back-to-back defeats to Linfield and Coleraine.

Striker Paul McElroy is expected to make his first appearance in more than a month after recovering from injury.

McAree added: "We had two disappointing results, albeit the performances were good, but we need to pick up points."

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