Local sides return to Irish League action

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JUST three months and fourteen days after the local Irish League sides concluded their 2011/2012 season, the new season gets ready to kick off this weekend.

It promises to be an intriguing season with two sides involved in the Championship 1 and two sides involved in the Championship 2.

Tobermore United enjoyed their return to the second tier of Irish League football last season and they will be joined by Championship 2 winners, Coagh United. Coagh supporters had one of the most nail-biting finishes to a season in local football. They secured the league title and promotion on the last day of the season but at one stage the Hagan Park outfit looked likely to miss out on both altogether.

The Hagan Park men travel to the Limavady Showgrounds for their opening game of the Championship 1 season. The Roesiders have a new man at the helm in Adrian McLaughlin and they will be hoping to avoid another sloppy start to the season. Last season they were comprehensively defeated by Tobermore in their opening fixture.

Coagh join local rivals Tobermore United in the second tier and under the stewardship of Noel Mitchell and Stephen Uprichard, they will be hoping to avoid relegation and perhaps cement their place in the league.

Tobermore will be hoping for more of the same this time around. The South Londonderry outfit had to deal with the departure of former boss Johnny Law mid way through their season. Oliver McAuley did well to steady the ship and prevented Tobermore from a potential relegation scrap with a number of impressive results.

Under new manager Oliver McAuley, the Fortwilliam Park outfit will be hoping to push on up the table and perhaps enjoy a good run in one of the cups.

Tobermore begin their season with a home fixture against Warrenpoint Town. The two sides finished relatively close to each other last season so it should be a hugely competitive fixture for boss Oliver McAuley and his team.

Flying the flag for the Mid-Ulster area in Championship 2 are Cookstown outfit Killymoon Rangers and Castledawson side Moyola Park.

Killymoon have changed their managerial team once again and the MUSA based outfit will be lead by senior players Davy McMullan and Steven McElhatton.

The Cookstown side have had an indifferent pre-season and have been hampered by cancellation of friendlies in recent weeks. It may take them a few weeks to get started and for the new managerial duo of McElhatton and McMullan to find a consistent starting eleven.

Nonetheless everyone at Killymoon will be hoping to simply avoid getting involved in a relegation scrap at the foot of the table.

First up for the new management team is a tough tie against Armagh City at the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena. The home side are difficult to beat on their 3G surface and will fancy their chances against an Armagh side that has struggled to return to the glory days of the late 90s when the Holm Park outfit were regulars in the Premier League.

The same could be said for Moyola Park. Manager Mervyn Pattison is striving to help the famous club return to much better times. A good season for the Mill Meadow side would be pushing further up the table and avoiding a last minute fight to avoid relegation.

It is an interesting start for Mervyn Pattison and his side. Moyola face an away fixture against Wakehurst at Mill Meadow!

The Ballymena outfit are still ground-sharing with the Castledawson outfit so they will enjoy home comforts in their opening fixture of the season despite being the away side.

All of the games on Saturday kick off at 3pm.