Chance to play more important than Irish Cup result as Annagh commit to tie
Annagh United boss Ciaran McGurgan considers the scoreline the least important aspect of his players’ Irish Cup clash against Linfield.
Newry City AFC, Queen’s University and Harland and Wolff Welders have this week confirmed decisions not to participate in the domestic game’s most valued knockout competition now dramatically revamped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With those clubs’ opponents handed walkovers as a result and Armagh City confirming “a willingness” to step in as a replacement, an Irish Football Association spokesman has confirmed developments remain under review.
Annagh share the same non-elite status that has resulted in league seasons declared null-and-void for clubs outside the Danske Bank Premiership - with only three of the round-of-32 ties featuring senior sides as part of an Irish Cup proposed across May.
McGurgan has “full respect” for any clubs outside the Premiership making the call to pull out under circumstances that include the absence of any competitive fixtures ahead of the scheduled May ties.
However, he views the chance for his Championship players to face Linfield at Windsor Park an opportunity with benefits beyond the game.
“I don’t care if we lose 10-0 to be honest,” said McGurgan. “We will be facing a Linfield side having played a league campaign from October of course but it is not about that result.
“My obligation is to my players and a chance to get back out on the pitch is there, so we must grab it.
“All along our stance has been we want football, any football, so now the opportunity to play is on the table it would be hypocritical to turn around and reject that option.
“I have full respect and appreciate the stance of any clubs who feel different but I’m speaking on behalf of my club and our aim is to play the tie.
“Beyond even the Windsor Park aspect, it comes down to the mental health and wellbeing of players who have missed out on so much football up to now and that’s the bigger gain.
“Later this month hopefully the NI Executive will propose dates for things to move forward and if we can get back to training in early April then the plan would be to arrange some friendlies.
“There is the regional cup proposal on the table as well and the more football we can play the better to try and give the players something back.”
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