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Full-time answer to Euro problem, says Glenavon boss Quinn

So, why do Irish League clubs not do well in European football?

It’s a question posed by many fans here, especially when their teams play in Europe, as Glentoran and Portadown do tonight.

There is no single answer. So, what could it be? Possibly that the Irish League players are part-timers.

Unlike mega-rich superstars such as Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, and Cristiano Ronaldo, local footballers worry about paying mortgages, picking up their own luggage after a flight, how they are going to collect their kids from school, and whose turn it is to cook dinner.

Or possibly it’s because teams here have such a small pool from which to pick their players.

Maybe it’s how the Irish League season ends months before European football starts, which means our players are out of sync in terms of preparation and fitness for fixtures at the start of July.

Even Linfield and Glentoran, regarded as the two biggest teams here, have dreadful recent records in European competition.

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It’s been embarrassing at times with Portadown losing 13-1 on aggregate to Porto in the early 1990s and Cliftonville beaten by the same score against Kosice in 1998.

Yes, there have been successes and those victories are cherished memories for the supporters.

Glentoran overcame Allianssi in the UEFA Cup in 2004 and a year later Linfield won their first qualifying round tie against Ventspils on away goals.

Peter Thompson’s away goal proved crucial but he cannot play for the Blues in the Champions League this month as he remains a Stockport County player.

And most recently, Cliftonville defeated FC Dinaburg 1-0 with Mark Holland grabbing the winner on the road after Kieran O'Connor (pictured) scored in a 1-1 stalemate at Windsor Park.

Ironically the most celebrated European ties for Irish League clubs ended in defeat. In 1967/68 in the first round of the European Cup, Glentoran drew with Benfica twice but went out on away goals.

It was the same outcome for Linfield after they experienced absolute ecstacy during the 1970/71 season in the Cup Winners’ Cup when they defeated Manchester City 2-1 at Windsor Park having lost 1-0 at Maine Road.

Exceptions to the rule though as Irish League sides are usually blown away. Glenn ‘Spike’ Ferguson, who has scored over 500 goals in Irish League football, said: “The Irish League is part-time, other European countries are full-time and that plays a major part.

“There are great quality players in the Irish League, but possibly players from other European countries are technically better. I think it comes down to training and getting enough time on the pitch during the week before games, only training two to three times a week isn't enough to bring you to your full potential.”

Marty Quinn, the current Glenavon manager, took Cliftonville and Coleraine into Europe and is no stranger to climbing the proverbial mountain.

“I think first and foremost the majority of other countries are in a full-time football situation whereas here, in the Irish League, we are basically part-time with the exception of Linfield who have maybe five or six players who are classed as full time professionals,” he said.

“I think obviously the full-time work the coaches can do with their players pays off. Much better standards, much more technical ability.

“Other European countries have a lot more to offer than we have here. We don't have the facilities, we don't have the weather, we don't have the finances.”


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