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Mick McDermott: Covid threat to Glentoran’s Euro bid keeps me awake at night

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Close eye: Mick McDermott looks on as Glentoran take on TNS at The Oval on Thursday night. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Close eye: Mick McDermott looks on as Glentoran take on TNS at The Oval on Thursday night. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

PA

Close eye: Mick McDermott looks on as Glentoran take on TNS at The Oval on Thursday night. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott has revealed that issues relating to Covid-19 affecting his squad have given him sleepless nights.

Speaking after Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Welsh League outfit The New Saints in the first leg of the first qualifying round Europa Conference League tie, McDermott explained that the possibility of his players missing matches due to the pandemic is constantly on his mind.

Prior to the east Belfast club’s opening game of the 2021-2022 season, McDermott outlined that his squad had been hit by Covid-19 isolation issues.

Asked how big an impact coronavirus has had on the Oval outfit, he said: “It’s massive. You can’t sleep at night thinking about it. It can happen to anybody.

“You’ve got the European Championship final (between England and Italy) on Sunday and people are going to be socialising and you have to trust your players will take care of themselves because there are Covid tests on Monday by Uefa and if you are out, you are out. That’s the same for every team.

“The players know what’s at stake and we know what’s at stake.

“If it happens, it happens and you have to play by the rules.

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“Bars are open and you can imagine what it’s going to be like on Sunday for the nation so that’s what you are worried about constantly.

“It’s in your head, You are thinking about the players, they have got families and young kids and some live with their grannies.”

McDermott added: “This year was the year of external factors that were constantly changing. You couldn’t choose a team.

“I didn’t give up on it but you go ‘here’s what we’ve got now’ and you hope week to week it would stay similar.

“During last season we had multiple isolations and I think five or six had Covid throughout the year and some were sick with it and some had nothing.

“One of the things we learnt was not to panic and to stay calm but at the same time we learnt that you had to juggle some balls because things changed from day to day and week to week.

“For players to get through last season was hard and I know I was tired at the end of it.”

Talented youngster Mal Smith looked anything but on Thursday, producing an impressive performance against TNS.

The versatile 20-year-old has just signed an extension to his contract, though could go out on loan this season in order to gain regular first-team football.

McDermott said: “We have had a couple of requests for Mal to go out on loan and that potentially was and is the plan.

“After Europe we will make decisions depending on who we will bring in and depending on who will stay.

“He is one that could get out and play for another team to get a full season in his legs.

“I said after he played in the County Antrim Shield final last year that I think he will be the best full-back in the league in the next year or two.

"The thing about him is he can play full-back and also central midfield and sometimes in the game he plays both, drifting in and out.”

Meanwhile, in the Championship, Kyle Owens has returned to Dundela from Crusaders and has been handed the captain’s armband by Glens legend Colin Nixon.


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