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The Irish Premiership Returns
Written by Adrian Logan
It only feels like a few weeks ago since Cliftonville clinched the Irish League title but we are back in business this weekend for the Big Kick off and at last the “powers that be” have elected to begin the season with a couple of real top class fixtures with Cliftonville taking on Glentoran and Linfield in action against Portadown. Just two top class fixtures in a league that could turn out to be very interesting this season. Who is going to win? It will be interesting to say the least. So let’s go with a little club by club guide of the season ahead.
Hoping to retain the title for the second year running but they will have to do it without Liam Boyce who has moved to Ross County. Having said that manager Tommy Breslin still has Joe Goal a Game Gormley in his ranks and that already makes them a team to keep an eye on. They had a poor start last season before moving into gear and in the end they were too good for long time leaders Linfield. Johnny Flynn,Jude Winchester and James Knowles will add strength to their squad and at this stage they still are the team to beat.
All change at Windsor Park. David Jeffrey has gone and has been replaced by Warren Feeney.. Several players are away as well including the likes of Michael Gault and Philip Lowry. New names include Stephen Lowry and Sammy Morrow. They finished six points behind Cliftonville last season and that could be the case again this time out. A new manager and new players means the fans may have to be patient at Windsor. The good run in Europe will lift confidence but they could be playing catch up to Cliftonville.
A good cup team but a team who just lack the strength in depth to make a serious challenge on the league title. They will always be hard to beat but they are lacking in certain areas to really go for the Gibson Cup. They finished third last year and that would be some effort if they could repeat that. I’m not sure that will happen.
Eddie Patterson has a very young squad to choose from and that squad has remained the same as we face into the new season. They finished fifth last year and another top six finish would have to be regarded as another success for the Oval club. Jordan Stewart will be their big hope this season and Patterson deserves huge praise to make his side more than competitive. The Cup might be their best chance of success for another season of a very tight budget.
Ronnie McFall is back in charge at Portadown for another two years. At one stage last year it looked as if he could be gone over the Braniff affair. Portadown ended up fourth after all that and big Ronnie showed again just how good he is. They have landed Robert Garrett, Mark McAllister and Michael Gault from Linfield and that will make them very hard to beat. Twigg will always score goals but you wonder does Ronnie need a trophy this season. Probably.
What an awful season they had last season. It promised so much and yet in the end delivered so little. I tipped them to do well last season but this time I am not convinced. Eoin Bradley is gone and they could struggle up front for goals. They have a superb manager in Oran Kearney but even his magic might not be enough. Mid table I think.
After the brilliance of their first season they did struggle to get to grips with it all last season and they only settled their relegation worries late on. Scoring goals was always a problem but Whitey Anderson will hope that former Leeds Utd player Anthony Elding will add some much needed bite up front. They have kept most of their established players from last season so I expect mid table for them this time out. A decent run in the cup would be a real boost for the Fermanagh side.
For Ballymena spell consistency. Cup finalists almost seemed to take away from their season as they slipped in the league. Matthew Tipton has arrived with a decent pedigree for scoring goals so we will have to see what impact he makes. Glenn Ferguson will be hoping for better than last season and he may just see an improvement.
They could be the team to watch apart from the obvious suspects. They do look to have better than average strike force. Kevin Braniff is there along with Eoin Bradley so you would think that goals won’t be a problem but they will. Not in attack but in defence. They do look shaky at the back and that could be their downfall. Cup winners last year they will be good to watch as always. I do think they will be up at the top end of affairs all the same. Could even be top four.
As ever the aim here will be to avoid relegation something which they have done consistently over the last decade. Money is tight at Stangmore and Darren Murphy has always had to be “cute” in the transfer market. Adam McMinn and Johnny Topley have h and I’m not convinced their new signings will make an obvious difference. The Swifts will not be relegated this season but they will be neared the bottom than the top come the end of the season. A good Cup run would be a great help.
Like Dungannon they will be hoping to avoid relegation. It was close for them at one stage last season but in the end they were 12 points to the good over relegated Ards. Warrenpoint like to play football under manager Barry Gray and they were very good to watch last season. Dermot McVeigh will aid their cause this season but it will be another battle for them. A battler I feel they will win.
The Championship winners are already being tipped for the drop this season. A good club with a good manager in Paul Kee but they lack the depth needed to maintain a run in the top flight. Stephen O Flynn has stayed with them which will be a help. They will have their moments but in the end they don’t have the players nor the squad. They will enjoy their season back amongst the Big Boys but that will be it.
Adrian Logan, Affectionately known as Logie, Adrian joined UTV in 1985 and is currently sports editor and a sports presenter and reporter for UTV Live.
Broadcaster, journalist, commentator. Lover of all sports.
“I fancy Tyrone this year!”
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