BALLINAMALLARD United Manager Harry McConkey was disappointed with Monday night’s decision to null and void the NIFL Championship, but he admits that it was an outcome that he expected as the majority of clubs voted against starting the season.

The Championship campaign had yet to get under way after a number of provisional start dates had come and gone, and with clubs having not received Elite status it was getting increasingly unlikely that there would be any league football this season due to the current restrictions that are in place.

“It’s disappointing, but the more time was moving on, that outcome was inevitable,” accepted McConkey.

“From day one I had always wanted to do right by my players in terms of their health and wellbeing. However, we wanted to be able to explore the opportunity to play when it was safe to do so; we wanted to keep that door open for as long as we could.

“The pandemic itself has, of course, over-ridden everything but also we all know that the decision not to grant Elite status to championship clubs in September has led us to where we are today.

“I think that with UEFA not letting the league to run beyond the start of June – which was not something that we were aware of until last Friday – it was then clearly too tight a window to play a 22-game league, and anything else would not be giving the league any integrity or credibility,” he commented.

He does acknowledge though that at least there is now clarity in regards to the league.

“If there is anything to come out of it, it is the fact that now we know for sure, after all the uncertainty, that we definitely won’t be fighting for promotion or relegation this season.”

Some sort of a regional or subsidiary competition had been discussed at Monday night’s NIFL meeting to allow teams game time before any potential Irish Cup, and McConkey is keen for his side to have games.

“It would be good to get the boys a few games before the Summer break and there have been several proposals put forward about what form this would take.

“The NIFL Championship Committee will look at this over the next couple of weeks.”

But, he says that to ask clubs to play in the Irish Cup without having played any games in preparation would be unacceptable.

“I think that would be farcical, and I don’t know how anybody could be asked to do that. Take Newry, for example; they are to go to Larne in the cup – and Larne are obviously going really well in the Premiership – so it would be so unfair that Newry would be expected to go into that match without any games under their belt.

“From our point of view, you can’t ask us to go into a game without any sort of lead-in. We did think that if the Irish Cup was at the end of the season, and you had six or seven games before that, we would be a lot happier. It is about respect for the clubs,” he added.

The main focus now though for McConkey is next season.

“The bottom line is that if I can get my players some games before we get a short break, and then get a really good pre-season, that would be our aim. Clearly, our focus has now to be on the new season.

“We want to be optimistic, yet realistic, that within that timespan, and with the vaccine being rolled out, we would be able to get our league up and running by August.

“I’m sure there will still be protocols that have to be adhered to, but as a club I am confident we will embrace the challenge of all that the new season will bring,” he concluded.