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Sooner we play in summer the better, says McDermott

 

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Winter blues: Jamie Glackin’s storm-assisted goal, direct
from a corner, against Glentoran earlier this month

Winter blues: Jamie Glackin’s storm-assisted goal, direct from a corner, against Glentoran earlier this month

Mick McDermott

Mick McDermott

�INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Winter blues: Jamie Glackin’s storm-assisted goal, direct from a corner, against Glentoran earlier this month

Glentoran manager Mick McDermott says he hopes Danske Bank Premiership clubs will one day vote in favour of moving the game to the summer months.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that the Northern Ireland Football League's first attempt to introduce a seasonal change in the Danske Bank Premiership may hit the buffers.

Linfield and Crusaders have both rejected a plan that will see the league beginning in the first week of July and ending in late March, with the Irish Cup final in the first weekend of April.

Danske Bank Premiership clubs have been asked to vote for that switch - which will see the season move forward by about five weeks - or continue with the current fixtures programme.

There appeared to be support among the clubs for a May to February model - favoured by Crusaders - but NIFL have come up with this suggestion, clearly feeling that it has a better chance of success.

Any change would need a 75% majority vote in favour, or the backing of eight of the 12 Danske Bank Premiership clubs.

One of the arguments for a summer switch is that our clubs would perform better in European competition and enjoy its riches. McDermott feels if Linfield had reached the group stage of the Europa League last summer, they could have pocketed as much as £15m.

"If I had my choice I would move the league completely to have it as a summer league," said the Glens boss. "But I think the League of Ireland dates from February to October would perhaps be too drastic a shift for us.

"There is scope for a bit of a shift, for example we could start in May with pre-season and play in June and July. We are already working in June. We started training on June 15 last year. The boys are in four nights a week.

"I like the idea of starting in May, playing throughout the summer, keeping the Boxing Day games and finishing in February.

"It's up to the clubs to reach an agreement. The decision has to be best for the group. My attitude is why not try something different? You can always change it back if the change isn't drastic.

"Can you imagine what would have happened if Linfield got to the group stage of the Europa League and pocketed around £15m? The Blues came so close to doing it and that shows our clubs have a chance, with a bit of luck. Dundalk realised their potential that way.

"If you're training earlier, you are fitter and give yourselves a chance. Linfield were outstanding. I don't know how a manager should be under pressure when David Healy almost achieved that."

A NIFL spokesperson said: "A steering group was set up to look at different options for any seasonal change. The clubs will decide the best way forward. A decision could be reached this year sometime."

Just like discussions revolving around a possible All-Island League, opinions on these matters are divided with clubs, players, managers and officials having a wide range of views.

While a seasonal change has gained support, McDermott is not expecting an All-Ireland model emerging any time soon.

"I think our league is really a good product and there's an opportunity to get even better through stadium improvements and television deals," he added.

"The teams at the top are very strong. Our product is strong, while it has been waning in the south. It's no coincidence they are looking for something different. I've a feeling some of their clubs are struggling financially.

"We've got to aspire to be the best we can be. I've a feeling we should wait and see how our league develops."

One area where there is a consensus of agreement is that clubs need fresh government funding to enhance their stadium and training facilities.

The Glens had feared The Oval would disappear when their debts spiralled close to £2m, but with Stormont up and running again, there is fresh hope of cash being made available, even though some within the east Belfast club are wondering what funds will be left over now that £33m is being sought to build Casement Park.

"The only way to upgrade the level of football is to train better using improved facilities," added McDermott. "What's the point in training more on a hard pitch that isn't suitable? The facilities must be right.

"That goes for kids as well. Get them on the right pitches and every club should have a good training facility.

"Then you will develop players and sell them to English clubs.

"What do we want to use money for? Facilities, and all the clubs deserve that.

"I feel if you are promoted from the Championship you should be awarded an artificial pitch of your choice, that's an added incentive."

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