David Healy has taken aim at the armchair critics and ‘Irish League Behaviour’ hashtag while praising the performances of Linfield and Larne in Europe this summer.
Irish League fans have used the popular online handle while discussing or flagging up the colloquial quirks or comical oddities of the domestic game here.
But the phrase doesn’t sit comfortably with Healy who believes the ‘Irish League Behaviour’ phenomenon is dated and risks undermining the recent progress made by local clubs.
He also fears it fuels the cynicism of the armchair critics who look down on the Irish League without ever darkening the door of local grounds.
“I can’t be bothered with the ‘Irish League Behaviour’ crap,” said the Blues manager, ahead of Tuesday night’s Europa Conference League clash with Fola Esch of Luxembourg (7.45pm).
“We pride ourselves on what we do and our professionalism and people don’t see the amount of work you have to do just to get people on planes (for European ties) and the pitch.
“I hate when people are negative toward the Irish League because the standard has improved. There are too many cynics, especially people who don’t watch Irish League clubs.
“It frustrates me. Sometimes we leave ourselves open as a league and I hate that, but clubs and managers have successfully tried to improve the league in recent years.
“The clubs are making improvements and I’d tell the cynics to go and watch their local teams. They should be more respectful.”
Linfield head into the home leg of their third qualifying round showdown with Fola Esch on the crest of a wave following a 4-0 aggregate win over FK Borac Banja Luka.
A thumping 4-0 win in Belfast a fortnight ago was backed up by an equally impressive 0-0 draw with the Bosnian champions in Banja Luka on Thursday night.
“We want to see a similar sort of performance to the Borac one and hopefully we can give ourselves a real shot of going into the second leg with a chance,” said Healy.
“They probably upset the odds in the last round, beating the Belarus champions (Shakhtyor Soligorsk), but they won both games, so it wasn’t as if it was a fluke in extra-time or penalties.
“They play in a manner which may help us because it’s a British-style game. They are hard working, well organised and have good experience down the spine of their team.
“They are the champions of Luxembourg for a reason, they are a good side and will see this as an opportunity to progress as much as we do.”
If Linfield progress to the playoffs, via the Champions Path section of the competition, they will face either FC Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan or Armenia’s Alashkert FC in the playoffs.
Clear that hurdle and the Blues will be in the lucrative group stages of a UEFA competition, just two years after narrowly missing out on the group stages of the Europa League.
“We are basically in a mini-tournament of champions at the minute, even though we’re in the Europa Conference League,” said Healy.
Linfield beat Bosnian champions FK Boruc 4-0 in the previous round
(Image: Presseye/Brian Little)
“The challenge is there to reach the play-offs. No one talked about it a few years ago and then we had an opportunity against Qarabag (in the Europa League) two years ago.
“Linfield and also Larne are still in with a shout this year and it is an incredible achievement so far, but we want more.
“If we can improve on the performance we had against Borac two weeks ago, hopefully it will stand us in good stead going into the second leg.”
An estimated 3,000 fans are expected inside Windsor Park, while Healy also hopes to be in the dugout after missing last week’s trip to Bosnia for ‘personal reasons’.