Football/Soccer

Irish League teams need summer football to make European splash: Ballymena United's Stephen McAlorum

Stephen McAlorum left Glentoran to join Ballymena United for the new season

BALLYMENA United’s new signing Stephen McAlorum says a move to summer football would give Irish League clubs a chance to make a splash in Europe.

The Braidmen trail Norwegian outfit Odd 3-0 ahead of tonight’s Europa League second leg clash at the Showgrounds.

Coleraine trail 7-0 from their first leg encounter with FK Haugesund.

“The European matches get the team fitter and it’s a good experience for the players going away together and playing against good opposition, especially with new players coming in,” said McAlorum.

“I think it would help Irish League teams in Europe if we played summer football.

“We would be 14 games into our season and we’d have a better chance of getting results in Europe. It’s hard to win games in Europe if you only have three weeks of pre-season done. Summer football would be a great move.”

McAlorum, who left Glentoran for Ballymena United after five years, has been unavailable for his new club’s Europa League games.

Currently holidaying in Spain, the west Belfast man explained to manager David Jeffrey upon signing for the club that he could not play in the games against Odd.

A father-of-two, McAlroum’s youngest child suffers from cystic fibrosis

“I’d offered to return home for the second leg of the Europa League match but David said to just enjoy the holiday with my kids and with school starting,” McAlorum explained.

“When I signed I said that I wouldn’t be available for the European games.

“To be honest, David’s very understanding and is a genuine guy. Now, if I took a holiday in the middle of the season it might be a different story. But he knows the score with the kids.”

Jeffrey has been busy in the transfer market this summer with Michael Gault, Stephen McCullough and Andrew Burns joining the Sky Blues revolution.

“It was the right time to move, to be honest,” McAlorun said.

“There were just a few things going on the background at Glentoran that didn’t sit well with me. They offered me a new contract and they knew I wasn’t going to accept it.

“A lot of fans got in touch with me and couldn’t believe it.

“I get on really well with Gary Haveron but it was other people making decisions and not the manager. It was the same when Eddie Patterson was there.

“Eddie had to fight a lot of our corners to get deals for players. I thought there were too many people getting involved in the manager’s side of things.”

McAlorum has trained several times during his 10-day holiday in Majorca and hopes to be in decent shape upon his return.

“The team is very, very fit. We’ve been in pre-season since June 11/12 and you can see the difference already. We’re training four times a week.”

Elsewhere, Crusaders hope to progress into the next qualifying phase of the Europa League this evening as they hold a 3-1 advantage over Latvian hosts FK Liepaja.

Games involving Irish League teams kick off at 7.45pm.

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