Eastern Region AMA manager Harry McConkey admits he thought that the Northern Irish contenders' UEFA Regions' Cup run would end where it started last August.
Eastern Region AMA manager Harry McConkey admits he thought that the Northern Irish contenders' UEFA Regions' Cup run would have ended where it started, at home last August, and indeed he might have welcomed the free time. Many teachers enjoy months off in the summer but the 47-year-old will have a packed schedule as he takes his squad to Bulgaria later this month for the eight-team final tournament.
The Ballinamallard man is a coach with Northern Irish league club Dungannon Swifts FC and will take a week-long course towards his UEFA A Licence in Belfast on his return from Bulgaria. Then he will be involved with the Stangmore Park side as they prepare to participate in the UEFA Intertoto Cup on 19 July.
Between the initial stage of the competition last August and the intermediate round in April of this year, he lost several players who had moved up to Irish League level, making them ineligible. For the final tournament he will be without Paul Caldwell and Davy Paul due to work commitments and Glen Upton as he will be on honeymoon.
Eastern Region comprise players from clubs affiliated to the Mid-Ulster and Antrim Football Associations. McConkey "mixed it in the first tournament, playing 4-4-2 and 3-5-2", but for the intermediate stage when they drew with Bratislava AMA and beat both Hradec Králove AMA and Isle of Man AMA, he stuck with the traditional 4-4-2. He said: "When you're going into the unknown sometimes you have to play it safe. We worked very hard on our shape and that is the system most familiar to players."