Belfast Telegraph

Mick McDermott: Irish League must go full-time if we want standards to improve

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott
Glentoran manager Mick McDermott

By Graham Luney

Irish League clubs must go full-time for standards to keep improving.

That's the view of Glentoran manager Mick McDermott, who is overseeing a new full-time culture at The Oval.

Larne, Crusaders, Linfield and the Glens are all committed to introducing more full-time environments, while clubs throughout the Danske Bank Premiership have recognised the benefits of additional training sessions.

A lack of finances is a major hurdle preventing a totally full-time Irish League set-up but McDermott believes it is imperative if the domestic game is to move to another level.

The Glens, now hopeful of a brighter financial future under businessman Ali Pour, are reaping the benefits of a more professional set-up.

Confidence is high after a 13-game unbeaten league run moved them into fourth in the Danske Bank Premiership, just three points off the summit.

As a new decade dawns, McDermott believes there are brighter days ahead for the club, which hasn't won a title since 2009, but he would like to see the league adopt a full-time approach.

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"We'd like to see Glentoran continue to move forward as a full-time club and I'd like to see the league go that way as well. I think it will keep moving towards a new full-time model," said McDermott.

"A better quality of football will attract more sponsors and TV deals.

"It's all about the product on the pitch and it has improved.

"I've been surprised by some of the games. Crusaders are an excellent side when they want to play football and they can also mix it up.

"Larne and Linfield have been playing great football and, when you have a product that is improving, there is potential for revenue to come into the clubs.

"There is a fear that a few big clubs will pull away and leave smaller sides behind but no-one wants to see that happening.

"You had talk of an All-Ireland League and, while we don't know whether that will happen, I think we'd all like to see a move towards a more full-time environment."

Glentoran players have needed to change their weekly routines but they are buying into the club’s new training regime.

“We have around 10 players who train every day,” said McDermott. “We train Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and changed the training times to make it more of a full-time commitment.

“The full-time lads are in Wednesday and Friday morning. The lads are training more and it’s all about trying to create a full-time environment in a part-time reality. It doesn’t cost a lot more, it’s just about trying to do things the right way. The preparation must be professional and better training helps. People forget about the staff… how can you go full-time without a full-time kitman, physio or who will make the food for the players? There’s a support staff needed and it’s a big step to take as most clubs rely on volunteers.”

McDermott also stressed the importance of clubs developing their training facilities so they can better nurture talent.

“We also want upgraded elite-level training facilities at every club for their academies, as well as their first teams,” said the Glens boss. “Better training facilities means better performances and development.

“We already develop players, some of whom go across the water to play professionally, and Glentoran, along with the league, must embrace better facilities. Maybe it’s not a reality for smaller clubs but they can improve their youth development and sell players for decent money.”

McDermott believes the Irish League must continue to strive to become a more family friendly environment.

“I think we are all in the same boat with regard to stadium development,” he added.

“Clubs are hopeful that when our government is finally up and running, funds can become available.

“Other sports like rugby and GAA have received funding, as has the National Stadium, so the timing is right to upgrade football facilities to a standard that attracts fans, sponsors and corporate entertainment.

“It’s a day out for people, and are you going to bring your wife and kids out to a tin hut where you will get soaked? No.

“Other sports have become a good family day out and that comes with improved facilities.”

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