Dundalk FC manager Vinny Perth doesn’t believe the three matches from a proposed Super Cup involving the SSE Airtricity League’s European qualifiers would be enough to prepare his side for the Champions League but says he would be happy to play them if it’s the only option available.
With a number of League of Ireland sides reluctant to return to action due to financial concerns around the prospect of playing behind closed doors due to Covid-19, the idea was floated last week of holding a Super Cup tournament involving Dundalk FC, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City at a neutral venue such as the Aviva Stadium to help prepare the sides for Europe.
Were the competition to proceed, each side would play each other once but Perth feels just three matches after such a long lay-off from competitive action would be insufficient to prepare for the Champions League qualifiers whenever they might take place.
“No it’s not enough but at the same time, if that’s as good as it’s going to be then we’ll welcome it with open arms,” he said.
“Since we’ve gone to summer football two clubs have qualified for the Europa League group stages from Ireland and the results have improved hugely. I know before that there were big results but world football has changed. You used to draw a team from Slovakia or Latvia and see it as an easy tie but that’s not the case anymore so we need to be the best prepared we can be if we’re going to play in Europe this year.
“I spoke to Stefan Colovic the other day and he was telling me his whole country are back training and just about to start playing again so potentially some nations will be ahead of others when Europe starts so we’ve got to do our best to ensure we don’t fall behind.
“As a player, we’re very lucky we have some that have played in five or six European campaigns but by and large most League of Ireland players only get a couple of goes at it so it’s important to them. Once it’s safe and healthy to play in these games we need to be ready as best we can.”
Perth admitted it was “hard to know” when asked when he thought Europe might take place amid weakend reports that the current Champions League and Europa League seasons will finish at the end of August.
“Ultimately they will want to finish the current competition before starting into next season’s but I suppose everyone will be just watching Germany and hope that goes well but there is more than just Germany.
“So many other nations that aren’t hotbeds of soccer are just about to get back up and running and are more comparable to us. The Faroe Islands started their league at the weekend and then there is the likes of Slovakia and others. We’ll be keeping an eye on them because, to be fair, Germany is more of a test case for the UK. For too long Irish football in everything we’ve done has looked to the UK for guidance but in this case the UK is slightly different to where we’re coming from.”
For now, Perth has been working hard behind the scenes to ensure his side can return to training on Monday in groups of four when the first phase of the Government’s roadmap out of the current lockdown kicks in.
“As per the HSE guidelines, it looks like we can train in small numbers so I see that as a real option,” he said.
“Internally we’re working on a document on how we can do that safely. We’ll be appointing a Covid-19 officer to keep us all in line but I believe we can train and train safely at that.
“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of when we start playing but at the same time if we can return to work and keep the football industry going then we have to do it once it is safe.
“Myself, David Murphy, Danny Miller and Graham Norton have been busy building the Covid document that means that everyone in the club is safe and healthy. Ultimately, our players are lucky in that they’re returning to such a safe environment compared to returning to a building site or going back to work in factories or shops.
“At the same time, we’re not going to take any risks. The one thing I noticed this week was the announcement by National Pen and the loss of jobs in the community in Dundalk so as a club we’re very conscious of the fact there are people in our community suffering but hopefully this summer we can put a smile back on people’s faces or at least put Dundalk back on the map for the right reasons,” said Perth.