Belfast Telegraph

Healy remains defiant, as All-Island bid suffers a hit

Out of reach: Dundalk’s Michael Duffy sprints away from Josh Robinson
Out of reach: Dundalk’s Michael Duffy sprints away from Josh Robinson

By Graham Luney

Linfield manager David Healy has admitted he was embarrassed by his side's 6-0 loss to Dundalk on Monday night and he remains unconvinced an All-Island League will take off.

The Blues are licking their wounds following a 7-1 aggregate defeat in the inaugural Unite the Union Champions Cup and the demolition job at Oriel Park will live long in the memory.

Healy says he takes "full responsibility" for the humbling loss which - on the night - highlighted a gulf in class between the two sides.

Fans who fear Irish League sides would struggle in an All-Island League will say this match supports their argument and suggests Danske Bank Premiership teams would find it difficult to qualify for Europe.

Ballymena United manager and former Blues boss David Jeffrey, who was analysing the game for RTE, argued that the loss of European places was a big hurdle blocking an All-Island League, however Dundalk supremo Vinny Perth is all for it.

Healy was given a harsh reminder of Dundalk's quality after the Irish FA indicated they couldn't support All-Island League plans proposed by businessman Kieran Lucid's team.

"It's gutting and I'm embarrassed," said Healy. "I take full responsibility for the performance and result.

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"I will take it on the chin and assess myself. No one said much after the game, we didn't need to. Sometimes when you're hurting things can be misinterpreted.

"It's not the end of the world for us, we have other games and competitions to win.

"I'm disappointed for the fans, they will be hugely disappointed and I feel for them. They will be hurting but we will need their support going forward and hopefully we can enjoy bigger occasions together.

"We'll go to the Brandywell to play Institute at the weekend and will be ready for it after regrouping."

When asked about an All-Island League, he added: "Personally, I'm happy where we are.

"I will let the powers that be decide on that. Other people have their own opinions. Is it good, is it bad? I don't know until the contract is put in front of people. I love the league we're in. I'm sure the Irish guys that play in their own league love that league.

"We've seen how good Dundalk really are. If there are any positives we can take, it's the relentless pursuit of Dundalk to win trophies. They were sensational and we were miles off it."

Dundalk chief Perth was all smiles but he admitted the League of Ireland still has a long way to go to catch up with certain areas of the Irish League.

"What they do better than us is the grounds, the crowds, the match-day experience," he said.

"We'd have to get up to their level. Linfield would have been, at the very minimum, third in our league (this season). I think they're a very strong side with everybody fit.

"There's not a huge gulf between the top teams. Their lower teams could struggle, because we've more of a technical game than what they play."

Perth says he'd like to see the two leagues eventually uniting into one competition.

"I think this result will dent it, in the sense that people up north will be scared of it," he added.

"Is it a long way off? I don't know. I think both leagues need to be improved. Theirs is not strong enough, and their European results would back that up.

"Us, we need to do something different, because what we've done over the last number of years is not good enough. The administration of our games is not good enough. You look at the Irish international team, and the amount of players that have played in our league tells you that if we invest in it, we might actually eventually make our national team stronger.

"Jack Byrne should be the star of Irish football at the moment, and he's not... he's not on billboards. Our own players are champions of Ireland. Around this small town, they're well known, there are flags.

"But we need to do that part of the game better. I definitely think an All-Ireland League would help both leagues. As a club we'll push for that, because we need to improve."

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