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McLaughlin would ‘probably’ support switch to summer football

Cliftonville manager, Paddy McLaughlin believes his team’s European campaign will stand to them going into the new season that begins on August 10 Cliftonville manager, Paddy McLaughlin believes his team’s European campaign will stand to them going into the new season that begins on August 10
By Kevin Herron

CLIFTONVILLE manager Paddy McLaughlin admitted that he would probably be in support of summer football if the Northern Ireland Football League decide to press ahead with the idea.

The Reds’ boss has experienced summer football in the League of a Ireland with both Derry City and Finn Harps and enjoyed playing on the warm, bright nights rather than cold and wet winter evenings, but acknowledged that there is a lot more to just switching campaigns.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he said.

“I played in the League of Ireland with Derry City and Finn Harps in the summer league and enjoyed it. I enjoyed the training in the good weather and playing matches on the bright nights.

“It did seem to attract more fans through the gate on a good summer’s night than it did on a cold winter’s night. I was a fan of it whenever I played in it and I would probably be a fan of it if it came to the Irish League.

“It was great when you were going to training and matches on the bright nights rather than wet, cold and miserable nights.

“Obviously, there is a lot more to it: finances, sponsorship and everything else before it would be agreed. In terms of going to summer football, I would be in support of it, but everybody is different.”

Advocates of summer football believe that it would help participants from the North on the European stage.

Cliftonville’s latest European adventure came to an end with a 6-1 aggregate defeat to Haugesund of Norway.

Trailing 1-0 on the night to Kristopher Velde’s stunning strike, McLaughlin’s side bagged a vital away goal through Conor McMenamin, but two late strikes before the break from Niklas Sandberg and Ibrahima Kone saw the hosts effectively seal progression. Further strikes from Bruno Leite and Velde saw the Norwegians home 5-1 on the night.

McLaughlin felt his side matched Haugesund for large periods, but was disappointed with the concession of the two goals before the break.

“We gave a good account of ourselves and actually matched Haugesund for large parts of the first-half,” reflected McLaughlin.

“When it was 1-1 and even at 2-1, we had a chance. Joe (Gormley) linked-up brilliantly with Conor McMenamin and we should have made it 2-2 and we’re definitely well in the game.

“They scored the third right on half-time and killed the tie. It killed any hope we still had and it was disappointing.

“There were 30 seconds on the clock before half-time and it (goal) was from a set-piece. We were disappointed not just with the goal but also with the timing of the goal. If we had have seen out the 30 seconds we would have went in 2-1 at half-time and very much in the tie.

“There were a few disappointments, but for large parts of the half we definitely matched them for all they were for. There was nothing between the two sides.”

McLaughlin felt that his side more than created enough chances over the course of the two legs and believes the Norwegians’ full-time status was the big difference.

“I think it showed over the course of the two ties,” offered the Cliftonville manager.

“We created as many chances as they did. The difference was that they took their ones and we let them off the hook two or three times. That’s the difference between part time and professional set-ups.

“To match them for playing and general life and fitness over the two ties was superb, but I think the difference was when it came to taking chances – they took theirs and we didn’t. That was the difference over the course of the two games.”

The Reds’ boss believes that the experience of the European run will stand by his side over the course of the domestic season, which begins on August 10, and hopes to give the Solitude support more reason to return in their numbers this campaign.

“The experience of going away together as a group and living the professional life for a couple of weeks was massive,” McLaughlin believes.

“The club supported us and did it brilliantly for us in terms of hotels, accommodation, how we ate and how we trained. The boys were superb and the club did everything we asked and everything they could have done for us. In terms of professionalism, it was a great experience and it was one that we all enjoyed.

“If we continue that professionalism and preparation going into games right throughout the season, it will be an experience to look forward to.”

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