PSNI to have final word on Linfield v Celtic clash in July
Clubs have agreed the game could proceed on July 11th at 5pm
Irish clubs enjoyed mixed fortunes in the draws for the Champions League and Europa League at Uefa headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA
Officials representing Linfield and Celtic at the draw in Nyon are reported to have agreed that the potential Champions League qualifying game between the two clubs could go ahead in Belfast on July 11th with a 5pm kick-off if the Irish side gets through to the second round.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is, however, said to have significant concerns about the timing of the tie and it remains unclear whether Uefa will switch the order of the legs.
Linfield have been drawn to face La Fiorita of San Marino in the first round of the competition but if they get through that then the Irish League champions are currently scheduled to face the Scottish club on either July 11th or 12th.
There is general agreement the game could not possibly go ahead on the latter date which represents the focal point of the marching season but Celtic are apparently willing to play the game the previous evening and Linfield are keen to avoid a reversal of the tie.
“Our preference is to play the home leg first, for financial reasons that’s obviously the best thing for us,” said Linfield chairman Roy McGivern.
“At this stage the first-leg would be on July 11th, potentially with an early kick-off but there are discussions going on at home now with the PSNI to see how that would be managed.”
Despite reports suggesting the PSNI is uncomfortable with the game going ahead on that date given the pressure it is already under at that time of the year, McGivern insisted that there had been “no discussions about switching the game at all”.
Uefa did not respond to an inquiry regarding the timing of the game but they would be unlikely to disregard the views of the local police force if the PSNI took a firm view that the Belfast leg should not go ahead as scheduled.
Cork City also had issues to contend with on Monday over their Europa League tie with Levadia Tallinn. The Estonian club, who were drawn at home first in their first-round encounter, requested a reversal of the legs or other change of dates as they said their ground would not be available by June 29th when the first game is supposed to take place.
City officials had resisted any move to reverse the order of the games with John Caulfield anxious to have home advantage in the following week’s second leg and it now appears the first leg will be played 125km south of Tallinn, in the resort town of Parnu on the date originally scheduled.
Derry City got the toughest draw of the three Airtricity League clubs in the Europa League with Kenny Shiels’s side facing the prospect of taking on Midtjylland who won the Danish league a couple of seasons ago and have performed strongly in recent European outings while Shamrock Rovers will take on Iceland’s Stjarnan.
In the event that they progress, Cork City would face AEK Larnaca or Gibraltar’s Lincoln FC, Rovers would take on Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Republic while Derry would earn a second round tie with either Ferencvaros of Hungary or Latvia’s FK Jelgava. Those games would take place on July 13th and 20th.
Dundalk, meanwhile, could have been drawn against Celtic in the second Champions League qualifying round but will instead face Norwegian champions Rosenborg who beat Bohemians 5-0 over two legs when Stephen Kenny was in charge of the Dalymount Park club back in 2003.
“At that stage they were regulars in the group stages of the Champions League and almost every player was an international,” says Kenny who would have been hoping for an easier draw.
“They had some more difficult times after that, Molde became the strongest club for a spell but they seem to be back on top again and they’ve won a double double over the last couple of seasons, that’s something we came close to doing but couldn’t quite manage, we lost the cup final to Cork last season.
“So they are a strong club and we’ll be very wary of them but we won’t be frightened at all.”