irish league

Linfield have put their Champions League disappointment behind them to focus on their impending Europa Conference League date with Borac Banja Luka.

Linfield boss David Healy. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Linfield boss David Healy. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The Blues crashed out of the first qualifying round of UEFA’s premier competition on Tuesday as they went down 5-2 on aggregate to Lithuanian outfit Zalgiris Vilnius.

It was a tough one for David Healy’s men to take but they had the safety net of dropping into the second qualifying round of the newly formed Conference League.

They welcome Borac Banja Luka to Windsor Park next Thursday and Healy knows it will be another tough test against the Bosnian Premier League champions.

“They will be another decent side,” he told the club website.

“They have beaten the Romanian side Cluj, who are certainly no mugs.

“We haven’t done any work on them as our sole focus was on the Champions League qualifier, but myself and Ross will sit down and come up with a plan of how to go about things.”

The Champions League qualifiers was Linfield’s first competitive action since moving to their full-time model.

Despite the disappointment of losing the tie Healy feels there were plenty of positives for his new squad to take out of the games.

“When you lose any game you feel disappointed, but I have to take the positives out of both games.

“It will take people time to get going again after the really tough schedule we faced last year.

“I know we will be better and we certainly will going forward.

“I will assess the squad, obviously the new boys will come in now, but I feel we have a good squad and I’m looking forward to working with them all.”

The game also marked a special milestone for Linfield midfielder Kirk Millar.

It was his 300th apearance for the Blues and Healy was full of praise for the wide man.

“Kirk has been outstanding at the club since he’s been here.

“I know in the early stages being a wide player he maybe took a bit of grief, but one thing you can never question about Kirk is his honesty, quality and workrate.

“He’s lively on and off the pitch, and is a great person to have in and around the place.”

Tuesday night’s game also saw the return of home fans to Windsor Park and Healy was glad to see supporters back in the ground again.

“We felt the pain of the supporters last year particularly when it got to the crunch games of the season,” he said.

“We’re always backed by a huge Linfield support home and away, hopefully it’s a small step in the right direction where we want to get to.

“We want to get big crowds back to Windsor and we want to give them a team to be proud of, which I hope we’ve done in recent seasons, and hopefully come the end of the season it’s a team that we are celebrating with.”