| 13.4°C Belfast

Irish League stars need proper preparation before return to ease injury worries, says Larne boss Tiernan Lynch



Larne manager Tiernan Lynch

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch

�INPHO/Matt Mackey

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch has warned the Northern Ireland Football League not to disregard player welfare in the rush to finish off the league season.

The Irish FA's return to play document refers to the game returning in step three of the NI Executive five step plan after just two weeks of full team training have been completed.

Lynch says that's an unrealistic assessment and will put a huge physical strain on players.

There are similar concerns in England where Premier League teams will be able to make five substitutions, rather than three, in each match to the end of the season after clubs approved new rules.

Teams will also be able to name nine substitutes instead of the usual seven.

Newcastle United club doctor Paul Catterson said he was expecting more injuries as the intensity of training increased, while Lynch maintains the risk is even greater for Irish League players.

It's 13 weeks since the Larne players have trained together since football was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 crisis.

NIFL and the Irish FA need the Government to allow training and matches to resume, with early clashes possibly going ahead behind closed doors but clubs have little interest in playing without spectators.

It's not considered to be a financially viable option.

"We need to have several full training sessions with the team, otherwise we are not sufficiently prepared to play games," said Lynch. "It's now 13 weeks since our players have trained together.

"Two weeks preparation time is hugely unrealistic and will give us injury concerns."

Lynch, a firm believer in moving the Irish League to the summer months, added: “You have seven rounds of league fixtures and three Irish Cup games within what you would imagine would be a hectic schedule of two or three games a week.

“Factor in preparation time and you are talking two months minimum to finish the season.

“The games are massive in the league and Irish Cup so the physical challenges for the players are clear.

“The Premier League players in England are professional footballers who have access to the best facilities and expertise and they are worried about fatigue and injuries, so much so that they are introducing five substitutes instead of three. How are our players going to be treated?

“I think we should give our players a month’s preparation to return to competitive football.

“You can’t have a situation in which the players haven’t played in 16 weeks and then expect them to be game ready two weeks later.”

Managers and coaches are digesting the return to play draft document but there remain concerns over the financial viability of playing games without fans.

And the players will need sufficient time to prepare their bodies for what would be huge games if the season is played to a finish.

“If you look at any pre-season it lasts six weeks after players have a six week off season,” added Lynch. “Even now the days of having six weeks off are gone because the boys get two weeks off in which they do nothing, then they get a four week off-season programme which gradually builds them back up to the right fitness level. Pre-season usually consists of six games and all the players don’t play 90 minutes.

“And they aren’t intensely competitive matches.

“There are financial implications for clubs too as once the players are training they are off the furlough scheme. The grounds will also have to undergo a deep clean and who will pay for that?”

Ian Parkhill, meanwhile, has agreed a two-year deal with Coleraine.

• Former Glentoran youngster Charlie Lindsay has completed a dream move to Rangers.

The east Belfast teenager has agreed professional terms with the Ibrox side.

Earlier this season he became Glentoran’s youngest ever first team player when he played against Ballyclare Comrades at the Oval. Rangers’ Sporting Director Ross Wilson said: “Charlie is one of the most sought after youngsters in the United Kingdom and we are delighted that he sees Rangers as the best place for him to continue in the development of his undoubted talent.”

Belfast Telegraph