THE Irish League kick starts on Saturday afternoon and all four of the local sides will be hoping for a successful season.
Tobermore United will be hoping that they can adjust to life in the Championship 1 division next season. Manager Johnny Law will be hoping that the Fortwilliam Park outfit can be competitive in the higher division following their second place finish in the Championship 2 last season.
“It is a tough league. I am not disillusioned into thinking that it will be easy. There are some top teams in the league and it is up to us to compete well against them.”
Law has led his side through a decent pre-season campaign and they hosted Linfield and performed admirably against the Irish Premier League Champions.
“The panel is fully fit and raring to go. We have added quality to the squad and my big problem now is picking the starting eleven.”
The Championship 1 is certainly an extremely competitive division and Law believes that there are a number of teams capable of winning the league.
“In my opinion Dergview and the Welders will be the two sides to beat this season. Limavady will be there or thereabouts again. There are a lot of tough teams in this league but I believe we can compete well and it will be a great season of football.”
However, it is in the Championship 2 where the majority of local interest lies. Killymoon Rangers, Moyola Park and Coagh United are all involved in what is an extremely competitive league.
Joint Managers Noel Mitchell and Stephen Uprichard will be hopeful that Coagh United could perhaps push for promotion this season. Uprichard believes that it will be a hard fought league and the side who does the basics well will be in contention.
“There is no doubts that it is a tough league. We are hopeful that if we perform well each week then we will be right up there at the end of the season.”
Uprichard added, “It has not been the best of preparations for the season with regards to the release of the fixtures but we have had a good pre-season and we are prepared. A number of players moved on over the summer but we have brought in some young and hungry players and we are looking forward to the season.”
Moyola Park boss Mervyn Pattison is also looking forward to the up and coming season and is hopeful of a much better season this time out.
“Finishing second bottom last season was far from ideal. We are hoping for a big improvement this season. Our first four games are four very tough fixtures, starting off with Coagh at home. I feel if we can get a few decent results in the first four fixtures then we can build up a bit of momentum and with that will come a lot of confidence within the panel.”
Pattison is hoping that his young side can improve on what was a disappointing campaign at Mill Meadow last season and he thinks that Dundela and Coagh United will be amongst the contenders for the title.
“Dundela will certainly be in the mix. You can never rule out Coagh United and I am sure the two relegated sides, Ballyclare and Ballymoney will be hoping to go straight back up as well.”
Killymoon Rangers enjoyed another season in the Irish League last season and the side who are based at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena will be looking forward to another enjoyable season. David Brown, chairman of Killymoon Rangers stated that the club were looking forward to their fourth season in the Irish League in what is their 40th anniversary year.
“This year brings many changes and new faces in many positions from committee, coaching and management right through to team personal. This is now our fourth season in Championship football and we are seeking to make an impact and move from the lower regions of the table to mid-table and beyond.”
Brown added, “these objectives will take a lot of hard work on and off the field of play but I believe we have the personal to do just that.”
The season starts this Saturday afternoon as Tobermore travel to the Limavady Showgrounds. Moyola Park and Coagh United clash in a Mid-Ulster derby at Mill Meadow and Killymoon visit Wilgar Park in East Belfast, as they face Dundela. All games kick off at 3pm