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Irish League support for summer football still lacking, says Coleraine chief


By Graham Luney

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry doesn't believe football chiefs in Northern Ireland are set to move the Irish League to the summer months any time soon.

The Northern Ireland Football League has kicked off a consultation process, asking clubs whether the domestic season should be "tweaked" or even played over the summer like the League of Ireland.

In June the Irish FA unveiled a five-year strategy proposing a "tweaking of the season" with clubs playing in May and June.

Improved performances in Europe can secure massive cash windfalls and the association said it wanted NIFL's co-efficient to rise from 47th to the top 40.

But some in the game like Coleraine boss Oran Kearney and his chairman McKendry feel radical change is needed to keep the game thriving at home and abroad with summer football the answer.

Four league fixtures were wiped out by the snow earlier this month, along with the two BetMcLean League Cup semi-finals, sparking fears of fixture chaos but there is another argument that recent Northern Irish summers have featured significant flooding, weather conditions that would also disrupt the schedule.

Opinion remains fiercely divided on the issue and that's why McKendry cannot see a summer switch on the horizon just yet.

"Like Oran I do believe that moving the season to the summer months is the right way to go but I'm not sure there is sufficient support for that to happen any time soon," he said.

"There's a consultation process involving the clubs and the Northern Ireland Football League will assess the information. It's a difficult one to get right but I think a tweaking of the season is more likely to help the clubs do better in Europe. I think anything that will improve the standing of the league and it's profile, particularly with regard to improving performances in Europe is a positive step."

McKendry is also confident Kearney can keep his squad together, even after the January transfer window opens and interest in his top players could intensify.

"We are playing well and there's a good camaraderie there," he added. "The four lads coming back in, Brad Lyons, Lyndon Kane, Skinner (Eoin Bradley) and David Kee are like four new signings for us. All the players are on long-term contracts so the club plans to hold on to every one of them. If a cross-channel club makes an offer then we would never stand in a player's way but we've always got to look after our interests as well as the player's.

"Brad Lyons and Jamie McGonigle are two young lads who are doing really well but we have been able to keep the squad together. We are trying to keep things low key in January and I'm not aware of any official contact for any of the players. I've heard whispers about Brad but we will deal with situations if they arise."

Meanwhile, Ards have announced that striker Gary Liggett and defender Greg Hall have left the club.

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