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'It's free to try it': Glentoran boss Mick McDermott urges serious discussion over calendar shift after more Premiership games postponed



Glentoran manager Mick McDermott.

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott.

�INPHO/Brian Little

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott.

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott has urged the Irish League to have a 'serious discussion' over shifting the local football calendar.

Since taking over the reins at The Oval in March 2019, McDermott has been outspoken on his views about how to improve the product on offer.

In November last year, he claimed that Northern Ireland is a "third world country with respect to training facilities".

Last month, he said that the current league season should be voided to protect players' health and clubs' financial wellbeing before restarting a new campaign over the summer months.

Now McDermott says that either the league's facilities or calendar has to change, pushing the latter as a 'free' option as opposed to the 'millions' that would be required to upgrade all clubs' pitches.

"Play from March, break for a couple of weeks in July for that holiday period and then continue right through to the end of October, November," he explained on BBC Radio Ulster.

"It means you play the majority of your seasons through the summer months in the better weather. If we look at last year after lockdown, we had four or five months of beautiful weather.

"There are arguments that there may be conflicts with GAA or other sports, we've heard that all before, but if we continue down this path of trying to play on bad quality pitches on a winter calendar, the two don't go together.

"You can have a winter season and have good quality pitches, meaning artificial or underground heating, but those cost millions.

"There's one solution that costs nothing, it's free to try it, and it's a calendar shift.

"I'm not saying I'm right, but the starting point is to improve football. People say 'well this is your opinion'. No, this is football's opinion. If we want to upgrade football, the only way to improve the quality on the pitch is to train better and to train more.

"Which calendar gives us the opportunity to train better, train more and play on better quality pitches? There's only one answer. It's not my answer, it's the answer and the answer is a calendar shift to when conditions are better to do all of that."

McDermott's comments came after his side's home game against Ballymena United was postponed due to a frozen pitch at the Oval, a decision his opposite number David Jeffrey said was the correct one, made by match referee Raymond Crangle.

Glenavon's home game against Coleraine and Crusaders' trip to Dungannon had earlier been postponed after 4pm pitch inspections.

"We can't control the weather but we can control the calendar we play in," McDermott said, pointing out that these three are the latest in a run of Irish League games to be called off to weather conditions. "I've said it before and I've taken a few sticks for it but it's not a summer calendar, it's a calendar shift. If this year isn't a reason... don't tell me we're going to discuss it. Look at it seriously.

"This can't continue like this. Will it continue? Likely. People are resistance to change so again, this is not just my opinion, it's an opinion based on objective fact that we're trying to upgrade football.

"The last few weeks have given us a clear scenario. It's a frustrating situation for everybody.

"How many times are we going to say we have a serious discussion? If you're going to have a discussion, you put a deadline on it. That's what we need to do.

"Just randomly throwing it out; 'we need to discuss it' - that could go on forever."

In a Sunday Life survey last month, just three of the 12 Danske Bank Premiership clubs - Ballymena United, Glenavon and Carrick Rangers - said they were dead against a move to summer football, with the remaining nine willing to entertain further discussions.

"If we don't want to do that, the only other solution is upgrade every club in this country's facilities, like some of the Nordic countries have done, the Swedens, the Norways, the Icelands, who invest millions into football so they all have great training and playing facilities. Then you can have a winter calendar," McDermott continued.

Over Christmas, a major barrier was removed as the Irish FA changed seven of its articles, one of which scrapped the parameters put in place over the duration of the football season in Northern Ireland.

Previously, all affiliated associations to the IFA were only permitted to play their competitions between August 1 and May 31, unless an extension — like the one applied due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year — was afforded by the Football Committee in exceptional circumstances.

Now, competitions can be played at any time across the year, paving the way for a potential calendar shift.

Belfast Telegraph