Boss reveals injury and isolation woe ahead of TNS’ visit
Mick McDermott has revealed his Glentoran squad has been trimmed by injury, medical delays and Covid-19 isolation issues ahead of tonight’s Europa Conference League first qualifying round clash with The New Saints at The Oval (6.45pm).
The Glens boss is confident he has a strong enough squad to overcome the Welsh side over two legs but his preparations have been a little more challenging than he would like.
If the east Belfast side can progress in Europe again, they will face either Europa FC of Gibraltar or Lithuanian side Kauno Zalgiris in the second qualifying round.
“We have a few boys with contact tracing isolation,” said McDermott. “We have one player whose medical with Uefa is still not complete. It’s no one’s fault, sometimes you need additional tests.
“Sometimes you need more scans and it can take time. We are down about four players so it is not as smooth preparation as we hoped but we will still have a strong team out.
“The game will go ahead, Uefa have carried out tests and both teams have been training.
“We are still living in those times and when you get zapped on your phone you need to self-isolate and we are no different to anyone else.
“We always said we needed a squad to compete and that’s certainly true at the moment.
“You can submit a larger squad for Europe and as for new faces into the club, watch this space!”
The Glens boss believes Irish League sides are now better equipped to land a knockout blow in European football.
An Irish League side have never progressed to the group stages of European competition but Linfield came close in 2019 when they lost out to Qarabag on away goals in the Europa League.
“I think the group stages are a reality for our clubs now, with a decent draw,” he said.
“We played Torshavn last year and I’d have rather played Motherwell. The team that finished third in the Faroes League was the side that Dundalk played in the play-off final to get into the group stages.
“We are no different in the sense that if a team can get a favourable draw, we can be close.
“In the past you had a big team in the first round and had no chance but the style of the Irish League has changed and arguably better suited to Europe. Teams are adapting to opponents and you have to do that as you just can’t play one way. Linfield did come close in 2019 and they were counter-attacking in Europe which is not the way they play in our league.
“Getting into Europe was a target for us.
“Now we have a tie which is winnable as TNS are similar to us.
“The target is always to get to the next qualifying round. We have a decent draw as we are familiar with that style of football. The challenge is can we get through a round?”
McDermott travelled to Scotland to watch The New Saints play and he views them on a similar level to a strong Irish League side.
“It’s hard to find videos, their league isn’t televised, but I watched them in Scotland and they are a good team, very similar to a good Irish League team,” he added. “When you let them they can play good football but so can other teams. It might be an Irish League-style game. The players are fit, they are just lacking a little freshness but we have been able to do proper training.”