Belfast Telegraph

David Healy slams 'madness' of Irish FA suspension rules after Linfield defeat on day of title party

Linfield boss David Healy walks past the Gibson Cup to pick up his winners' medal.
Linfield boss David Healy walks past the Gibson Cup to pick up his winners' medal.

By Alex Mills in the Sunday Life

Linfield boss David Healy last night admitted he was forced to protect his players from suspension as his team produced their worst performance of the season at Windsor Park.

Glenavon turned in a display of high quality and skill, garnished with some sublime goals, to tarnish the Blues' Danske Bank Premiership title winning celebrations.

The champagne was still produced at the finish as the Gibson Cup again returned to the international venue - for the second time in three years under Healy's leadership - but the former Northern Ireland striker couldn't resist taking a pop at the Irish Football Association's disciplinary policy.

With two games of the campaign remaining - albeit meaningless to Linfield - Healy insisted his team selection will be based on protecting certain players that run the risk of missing games next season, as was the case yesterday.

"It's only natural for me to protect my players," he said. "Some of them are only one card away from suspension. It's madness that suspensions can be carried over until next season in this day and age.

"One player in particular, a defender who has played 40-odd games, has been booked four times, which means he runs the risk of maybe a yellow or even a red card.

"It means now that some of my players mightn't play the next two games on the basis that they are sitting on four yellow cards and run the risk of suspension early next season.

"It's not only me. There are a lot of managers in the League in the same situation.

"Coming into the European qualifier and the Irish Cup Final, managers are having to take into account what players are on four yellow cards or what players is on eight or nine yellows.

"There must be a cut-off point at some stage to have them wiped.

"In the Champions League, previous cards are wiped at the Semi-Final stage and that's one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

"But for us, the Irish League is the biggest tournament. We've got a good product here and it's our duty to look after it. So, as a manager, I have to ask myself is it worthwhile playing these guys if there is a possibility of ruling them out next season?

"You want your best players playing at the start of the season, which can be such a crucial period."

Meanwhile, Jordan Stewart admitted it was the wrong time for the Blues to produce such an anaemic performance.

"We were humbled," he said. "I just can't put my finger on it, but I really don't think we need to. We can't be too critical after the season we've had.

"The boys are immensely disappointed to be beaten by four goals at home. I felt completely embarrassed at the end of the game because we were about to be presented with the trophy.

"But in hindsight, we are League Champions - I'm sure Glenavon would have loved to have been in our position."

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton, who sportingly ordered his boys to form a guard of honour for the new Champions before the game, admitted he was proud of their performance.

"It was a terrific display and we scored some fabulous goals," he purred. "I know Linfield didn't have their full-strength side out, but it was a team capable of beating anyone.

"For me, it was our best performance of the season. We now have to take that into Tuesday's game at Ballymena United. We are now very much in with a shout of finishing in the runners-up place."

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