Belfast Telegraph

Glenavon boss slams 'absolutely ridiculous' Irish Cup schedule

By Billy Weir

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has launched a blistering attack on the scheduling of tonight's rearranged Tennent's Irish Cup clash with Dungannon Swifts.

Because of Uefa statutes which state that senior leagues cannot play on the same night as Champions League fixtures, all four of the games that fell foul of the weather on February 2 are to be played this evening.

Hamilton is angry that his Glenavon side and Dungannon were both in Danske Bank Premiership action on Saturday and, just over 48 hours later, will be vying for a place in the quarter-final of the blue riband knockout competition.

"It's absolutely ridiculous and I don't care what they say about it, I don't know who makes the decision - whether it's the IFA or NIFL - but tell me a team in England, Italy, Spain or Scotland that are asked to play two games in three days? It doesn't happen," slammed Hamilton.

"How they can ask part-time players, who will have to go in to work on Monday, to play on Monday night is absolutely disgraceful.

"This is the top cup competition in this country and they are asking players to play after playing 90 minutes on Saturday.

"If I was the sponsor, I'd be pulling out of it, because you're looking for quality games for people coming out to watch.

"Whoever played on Saturday, they will have been involved in relegation battles, teams vying for European places and it's vital that they get these points.

"But they are then asking part-time players to go out and play and perform at that level on Monday night and put on entertainment for supporters.

"Anybody who doesn't think it's wrong needs their head looked at and it only happens in this country."

Hamilton went on: “The matches were called off last Saturday. There was only one match during the week, which was Coleraine v Dungannon, the league split isn’t for six weeks and the next Irish Cup game is in four weeks, so there’s more time to get that game squeezed in again.

“The players would have been fresh because their game was called off on Saturday and would have got a good entertaining game of football on Tuesday because everyone would have been fit.

“But no, they decided to go with that one game and it’s so unfair. We’re looking to promote this game and get the game to its highest level, but it’s impossible.

“Anybody who is involved in football at any level will tell you that you’re not going to get quality with two games in three days and that’s at full-time level when they can go home and get their massages, their ice-baths and cool-downs.”

Tonight’s game sees the return of former Glenavon captain Kris Lindsay to his old Mourneview Park stomping ground having turned round a Swifts team that had made a stuttering start to the season.

“Kris has done a really good job and we knew he would,” added Hamilton. “It’s never an easy game against Dungannon, it hasn’t been since I was this football club and it’s not going to be any different.”

Against Ards on Saturday, Hamilton made five changes to his starting line-up and rested several key players ahead of the visit of the Swifts, but still had enough in reserve to see off a powderpuff visiting outfit.

Striker Cameron Stewart, on loan from Linfield, who left Mourneview Park when he was 14, made an instant impact on his return when he scored the opener just after the hour.

He was instrumental in the second in the 70th minute when he was fouled by goalkeeper Sam Johnston, allowing Conor McCloskey to score from the penalty spot.

Ards boss Colin Nixon reflected: “We’re running out of games and running out of time and if we play like that there’s only one place we’ll be.”

Belfast Telegraph

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