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Stephen Lowry: Let's not give up on Irish League season yet when there is still hope we can finish

 

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Coleraine ace Stephen Lowry

Coleraine ace Stephen Lowry

�INPHO/Brian Little

Coleraine ace Stephen Lowry

Coleraine ace Stephen Lowry says he hasn’t given up hope the Irish League season can be played to a finish.

The Bannsiders still had a treble in their sights when the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on football.

Oran Kearney’s men had lifted the League Cup and had the league championship as well as Irish Cup in their sights.

Each club has seven games remaining in the Danske Bank Premiership with Linfield leading Coleraine by four points and the north west side have a semi-final date with Ballymena United in the Irish Cup.

There are strong fears the season may have to be abandoned, with Larne owner Kenny Bruce calling for the curtain to be brought down, but former Linfield midfielder Lowry isn’t ready to throw away the campaign just yet.

 “I was optimistic about playing football again,” said Lowry. “I thought we could get it finished but I’m now leaning towards it maybe not happening.

“But I’m not giving up hope yet. I’d like to see the games played but I do acknowledge that everyone’s health and safety comes first.

“Hopefully, we can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think a few more businesses are starting to open. I’m optimistic in terms of coming back as soon as possible, when there’s no health risk.

“I wouldn’t say let’s throw it away. People have been saying finish the league and they have been talking about giving out European prizemoney but my own view is that we have all worked hard to reach this point and let’s not let it go yet.

“It would be nice for clubs to get rewards for all their hard work, they deserve it.”

The frustration is being felt by everyone, particularly at Coleraine where confidence was flowing through their ranks.

“We did have momentum and this crisis came at the worst possible time for us,” added Lowry.

“While recognising that football is not important, we did feel we were sweeping teams aside and had plenty of confidence.

“All this is outside of our control and now we all have time to regroup.

“We will do that as well. I wouldn’t want the hard work of the teams to go to waste.

“I hope the title isn’t handed to Linfield but maybe someone has to get it.

“My priority is Coleraine and it could be a disappointing end.”

The 33-year-old, now in his second spell with the Bannsiders, has backed his side to quickly rediscover their swagger when football returns.

“We will come back hungrier and stronger,” he insisted.

“Eoin Bradley was coming back from injury, as was Ben Doherty.

“The way Oran works, this break won’t matter. The players will be in the right frame of mind and what was in the past doesn’t matter.

“We are in good shape and I just hope we can still finish the league and Irish Cup. Players only get so many chances in their career to win those medals.

“I’m sure the Irish Cup could be finished reasonably quickly.

“But we are still waiting on guidance on when to return and we will need good notice. They are important matches as well, as it’s the business end of the season.”

Coleraine chairman Colin McKendry has suggested that playing all top-flight games at Windsor Park and the Ballymena Showgrounds could be an option.

There have been no fixtures played in Northern Ireland since early March and officially the IFA have postponed all football until the end of this month. UEFA must be informed by May 25 if the Irish League season will be extended.

A Fixtures Sub Committee will today discuss what happens next with a key NIFL Premiership Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph