Interview

McKendry hopes for league conclusion

COLERAINE Chairman Colin McKendry hopes that the coronavirus outbreak won’t bring an end to the 2019/20 season…

The Irish Football Association last week fell into line with the rest of the United Kingdom by closing its doors in a bid to combat the spread of the virus.

The League Cup holders were meant to face Dungannon Swifts at home last Saturday, before taking on Larne this weekend, with the Irish Cup semi-final against Ballymena United on March 27 also postponed.

Speaking to colerainefc.com, McKendry believes the Association have made the correct call but knows the knock-on effect could have serious economic consequences for Irish League clubs.

“Whilst it’s disappointing for everybody in the league and across the UK, you have to follow medical advice,” he added.

“Certainly we will be looking for a bit of guidance from the league and the Irish Football Association to see where we go and how clubs survive.

“Gate receipts are a massive part of any football club and if you don’t get them, then you don’t have any income.

“You also have to take into account that not all clubs have a social club, shops and everything else, so you rely heavily on ticket sales.

“It’s going to be a difficult time, it’s uncharted territory, it’s unprecedented but we will see how it plays out.

“I think you have to agree with the league being postponed for three weeks.

“I think we could have possibly seen the game out against Dungannon Swifts, however, the decision was taken by the Irish Football Association on the back of possibly what happened over the water.

“I think it’s the right decision to be honest with you.”

Coleraine were also set to welcome friends, families, former players and businesses to The Showgrounds last Saturday for the final Corporate Lunch of the season – but this was also postponed.

McKendry was quick to highlight that first-team boss Oran Kearney have been advising the players regarding the ongoing worldwide epidemic that has put sport on hold.

“My phone went in meltdown over the Corporate Lunch,” McKendry added.

“You look forward to the weekend, the team is on a high and the momentum is there but it’s been taken away from you.

“The Corporate Lunch was organised with members of the 1974 League winning team coming, the special guests and the speaker were all arranged.

“It is extremely disappointing and we are left scratching our heads thinking ‘what is this all about?’ but there’s a bigger picture out there and we have to ensure that everyone is safe.

“Oran is a smart individual in relation to how he does his business and he has guided the players regarding the situation.”

The Bannsiders remain firmly in the pack for a first Gibson Cup success since 1974 and McKendry believes it is important that the league is played to a conclusion.

“In my opinion, we have to try and play this league out, but I am genuinely concerned about it getting finished,” he continued.

“If that means extending this league by a number of weeks, or even months, we have to do it.

“That could change with the ongoing situation, but in my opinion, you have to try and play it as there are league winners, European qualification and relegation to sort out.

“I read Karren Brady’s piece in the paper about calling for the Premier League season to be made null and void, but how do a team like Coleraine who haven’t won the league since 1974, and I’m not saying we will win it, but how do we go and agree with scrapping it?

“I don’t think you can and what UEFA will probably do is move the Euros to allocate more time.

“For our league and I’m not talking about the Premier League, where there is a lot of money, I’d be of the opinion and other Chairmen across the Irish League, that we are looking for some guidance from the Association and I’ve no doubt that clubs will need financial assistance if this carries on.

“It’s only happened last weekend, so we will take a bit of time and reflect, but we will certainly have to see how we can move forward.”

It has been suggested elsewhere that the league should be declared ‘null or void’, or end the season with the current league standings in place.

If it is to be the latter, this would earn Coleraine a return to European football and whilst this would represent a serious success for the club, McKendry still has one eye on continuing the title race as Coleraine trail leaders Linfield by four points with seven games still to play.

“If you asked me at the start of the season ‘would you take second place?’, I’d have broken both of your arms,” he concluded.

“If it stopped we would probably take second place and you would be over the moon about it, because at the start of the season we wouldn’t have been many pundits’ favourite for a top two position.

“However, there is the winning bug in me and the manager, in the sense that we could seriously give the title race a real rattle.

“I’m sure there are three or four teams who could say the exact same as us.”

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