Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Unite the Union Champions Cup not Linfield boss David Healy's focus

Linfield boss David Healy
Linfield boss David Healy

By Steven Beacom

Linfield boss David Healy has thrust the knife into future All Ireland club competitions.

Just days after the Irish Football Association refused to sanction Irish League sides participating in a proposed new big money All-Island League, Healy insists the upcoming inaugural Unite the Union Champions Cup between the winners of Northern Ireland's Danske Bank Premiership and the Republic's Airtricity Premier Division is not his major focus.

Rather, the Blues chief has prioritised the league game against Institute at the Brandywell following the two-legged affair with Dundalk.

"Winning the Unite the Union Cup is certainly not going to keep me in a job," says Northern Ireland's record goalscorer with a smile.

"The most important game for us in that period is the league game with Institute the following Saturday."

Healy continued: "We will play the home game on Friday and assess after that how we will be approach the game in Dundalk a few nights later. Of course we will go out to win."

Linfield's bid to retain the Irish League title has been affected by their brilliant Europa League run when they just failed at the final hurdle to reach the group stages of the European competition.

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They have been constantly playing catch-up in terms of points and fixtures with Linfield having played two games fewer than the other sides in the top five. Next week, that will become three due to their prior engagement with Dundalk.

The Blues face the League of Ireland top dogs Dundalk on Friday at Windsor then travel to Oriel Park three days later ahead of a weekend trip to Londonderry to play Institute.

While Healy has put the focus on Stute, the Killyleagh lad is a born winner and therefore he and his backroom staff will prepare his team and structure a game plan to beat Dundalk.

But he is well aware of the task in front of his side as dominant Dundalk have won their League five times in the last six years and today they will be going for a tremendous treble in the FAI Cup Final against Shamrock Rovers having already lifted the League Cup earlier this season.

Healy admits: "It will be a hell of a challenge for us because they are such a strong side. I think it will be an interesting tie.

"Dundalk are the club that everyone in Northern Ireland and Ireland aspire to be like for the way they go about their business of winning League titles and other trophies.

"I remember my first match in Europe with Linfield in 2016 was actually against Cork.

"They were an extremely difficult team to beat then.

"We lost 1-0 at Windsor to a penalty and we drew 1-1 in Cork to another penalty.

"Since then, though, the standard in the Irish League has improved. A lot of managers and coaches in the Irish League try to play in the right manner and the right way and I respect that."

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