Declan Devine: Qualifying for European football is imperative for Glentoran

Glentoran interim manager Declan Devine. PIC: David Maginnis/Pacemaker PressGlentoran interim manager Declan Devine. PIC: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Glentoran interim manager Declan Devine. PIC: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
As Glentoran prepare to start their Premiership split schedule against Big Two rivals Linfield this evening, interim manager Declan Devine insists it’s “imperative” that they secure European football for next season.

The Blues return to East Belfast just eight days after booking a spot in the season’s showpiece finale against Cliftonville following a 3-1 victory where Kyle McClean once again starred by scoring an impressive brace.

Both teams are looking to start the crucial block of split fixtures with a win as Linfield attempt to chase down league leaders Larne while Devine’s side have momentum on their mind ahead of the Premiership play-offs, which is now the only remaining viable route through to Europe.

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Rodney McAree safely navigated Glentoran’s passage through play-off pressure last term, only losing one of five split matches – and three of 18 league games in total – before beating Glenavon and Cliftonville to set up a Europa Conference League showdown with Gzira United.

The previous season, Larne came through the same system having gone unbeaten throughout the split, further showcasing just how important it can be to hit this stage of the campaign on a high.

With the Inver Reds, Linfield and Cliftonville all but secured European football, Glentoran will hope to join them – and benefit from the financial rewards that come with it – and Devine says it’s an absolute minimum requirement.

"It's massive and it's imperative that this club gets into Europe - that's the bottom line,” he said. “Glentoran should be in Europe every year, but there's no guarantees.

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"We have to make sure the players give everything of themselves. They're better than what they displayed on Friday night I have no doubt about that.

"There are good lads in there, good people and people are hurting in there. Marcus Kane for example...he worked so hard last week just to give himself a chance to be involved on Friday after being out for so long.

"I thought Patrick McClean played really well against Linfield. There are really good players there and they're going to have to hurt after that defeat because it's not good enough when your biggest rivals come into your own backyard and rub everybody's noses in it.

"We have to accept that we can't do that again."

Devine’s interim reign is set to conclude following the play-offs, but the former Glentoran goalkeeper insists he will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of success.

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"There are so many big games coming up and this club needs to be challenging and qualify for Europe,” he added. “I can guarantee everybody that I will be doing everything in my power to make sure we do that, but we certainly have to go up the gears on our previous performance against Linfield."

Glentoran are set to welcome back their joint-top league scorer David Fisher (11 goals) after the striker served his three-game suspension for a straight red card in a 3-0 defeat against Loughgall last month.

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