Tiernan Lynch feels Irish League clubs belong on European stage as Larne prepare for Champions League opener

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch after his side sealed the Premiership title last season. PIC: INPHO/Presseye/Stephen HamiltonLarne manager Tiernan Lynch after his side sealed the Premiership title last season. PIC: INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
Larne manager Tiernan Lynch after his side sealed the Premiership title last season. PIC: INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
Tiernan Lynch feels Irish League clubs need to banish any potential inferiority complex when it comes to Europe as Larne prepare for this evening’s Champions League first round qualifier against RFS in Latvia.

The wait for the Premiership’s first participant in the group stages of a major European competition goes on with Linfield twice coming within touching distance in recent years, including in 2022 when they reached the final UEFA Conference League qualifying round before losing out in a dramatic penalty shootout to the same team Larne tackle this term.

After retaining their Gibson Cup crown last season, Lynch’s men once again have the best chance of creating that piece of history – victory over two legs against the Vrsliga champions would guarantee them at least a Conference League play-off while even defeat will see the Inver Reds progress into the third qualifying round of the tournament.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Larne have been the Irish League’s dominant force over the past two seasons, losing only seven of 76 matches and conceding just 43 goals during that time, but now boss Lynch wants to see home clubs take the next step on the biggest stage.

"It's actually my favourite part of the season,” he said. “The whole razzamatazz of it all, the travelling and spending time in hotels.

"Also setting teams up and not really knowing what you're getting against these teams and how they will play. That's probably a really enjoyable part of it for all of us.

"When you talk of what you've learnt and how you can improve, you're always trying to do that. We spent a good bit of time watching last season's games against Ballkani and HJK and looked at the things we did well as well as the things we probably could have done a little bit better.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There's no doubt one of the big things we need to take is, not just as our team but as our league, that sometimes there is a bit of an intimidation factor with our clubs that we maybe feel we don't deserve to be there.

"That's something we have to overcome and try to embrace. Why shouldn't we be confident and go out there and enjoy ourselves?"

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.