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‘We can hold our heads high’

COLERAINE chairman Colin McKendry spoke to the club website after the Bannsiders finished second in this year’s Danske Bank Premiership…

After weeks of meetings and discussions, it was agreed that the league could not be finished on the pitch and the standings would be determined via a mathematical formula.

That formula resulted in Coleraine maintaining their second-placed finish and a return to Europa League football for the third time in four years.

The Stripes had trailed Linfield by only four points with seven games remaining and McKendry insists Coleraine wanted to play the season out on the pitch but it just wasn’t possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“First of all I would to congratulate the players for securing the BetMcLean League Cup trophy, we are in the semi-final of the Irish Cup and earning European football for next season,” he said.

“We were second place in the table on merit and we wanted to play the remaining games, but it just wasn’t an option.” he said.

“We would have loved to have played out the season to give it a rattle as it would’ve been tight, but I think we can our hold our heads high in terms of our performances on the pitch and our willingness to try and play games.

“The steering group set-up by the NIFL Board had a difficult task with coming up with options on how to end the season, but we were more than willing to work with them.

“We were behind the two-game scenario and voted for it but with UEFA deadlines and government advice, it made it more complicated.”

McKendry said the Bannsiders would “not be bullied” when he realised Coleraine had been excluded from talks which produced a 22-game proposal – a move that would have seen Cliftonville qualify for the Champions League with Linfield and Glentoran in the Europa League spots.

“It was ludicrous to cut Coleraine out of that meeting, it was an insult and we would not be bullied,” he added.

“We stood our corner for the right reasons and fought for what we believed in and with us not involved in those talks, it questioned the validity of that meeting and created divisions within football.

“We tried our best to get a solution and resolve all outstanding issues and we have nothing to hide.

“However, despite feeling isolated by others in the game, I took great comfort from the unity within our football club during this process as it has been a tough time for everyone. We want to draw a line under this now and look forward to the future with further success.

“I am extremely sorry for Institute’s relegation but that was out of our hands and I’ve no doubt we will see them in the Premiership in the near future.”

There were lengthy discussions about the distribution of European monies and McKendry reiterated his stance that Coleraine are happy to pay into a solidarity fund to help other clubs.

“We are open to discussions about donating into a solidarity fund controlled by the NIFL Board to help all clubs within the leagues,” he continued.

“We have always been open about that since the pandemic set-in and I’ve mentioned that in many media interviews since.

“We will explore all avenues to support clubs but there needs be discussions and further correspondence.”

The Bannsiders have plenty to play for before the 2019/20 season comes to a close and McKendry was thankful for everyone for their support during these unprecedented times.

“We are now planning for the semi-final of the Irish Cup which is a massive competition for us,” he concluded.

“We also have a European adventure in the pipeline and I know Oran will be planning for next season.

“I would like to thank our supporters, all our club sponsors, volunteers and fellow Board of Directors for their continued support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It hasn’t been an easy time for us all but hopefully we will all be at The Showgrounds sometime soon.

“We will be releasing further announcements over time about how we plan to take the club forward.”