Summer football… who needs it? This has been one fun-filled first week of July within the Danske Bank Premiership. Cliftonville and Ballymena United both produced great displays to progress into the next round of Europa League Qualifiers. The much-anticipated take over at the Oval has finally been completed, and the long-running “will he, won’t he be returning to Coleraine” is over. What a season 2019-2020 is going to be. I am predicting, with the money that is being pushed around the league, we are going to see one of the most competitive seasons by far. So, to that end let my round up begin.
Irresistible Cliftonville! What a result and what a team Paddy McLaughlin has at his disposal. Thursday night saw the return leg of the Europa League Qualifier against Barry Town of the Welsh Premier League. The first leg ended with a 0-0 draw but the Reds made short work of their counterparts in the second leg. A comprehensive 4-0 home win was just top notch and puts them in for a cash windfall from the next round. “Who needs an investor eh?” Goals from Conor McMenamin, Joe Gormley, Conor McDermett and Rory Donnelly sealed the win. That has set up a tie with Norwegian outfit Haugesund. The Norwegian’s are 14 games into their season and lay in 9thposition. Four wins, five draws, and five losses. It has not been the greatest of starts so the Reds must go into the game full of confidence.
The Sky Blues travelled to the Faroe Islands on Thursday night knowing if they could get the job done, they would set up a glamour tie in the next round against Swedish outfit Malmo. That they did! What a great performance from David Jeffery’s men. I found myself on Thursday taking the game in and the Sky Blues did everything they needed to do to get the job done after the 2-0 home win. The home team hit the crossbar and some wonderful goalkeeping from Ross Glendenning was enough to hold out for a 0-0 draw. The rewards will come, not just in the experience for the players and staff, but also the financial gain from getting through to the next round. Well done to everyone involved around the club at the Showgrounds and let’s hope the show will go on… again!
The deal has at last been done. I am not one that has been happy at what has gone on at the Oval. I am hopeful it will never happen again and that anyone around the board at the time the trouble started has moved on. But this league needs a strong Glentoran. A UK-based consortium has now completed a reported £1 million takeover of the club. There is a lot to be done around the Oval to get it up to the standard they want. It has cost well over £1 million for Larne to get where they are, and if you listen to rumours it was exceptionally more. But if you want success you need to put your money where your mouth is. Everyone will be fighting it out for the main source of income in the league this season. European Qualification. Good luck to the Glens supporters who need a break because they have been there through thick and thin and did not make any bad judgment calls when it came to the running of the club.
The worst kept secret in the league was finally been unveiled. Oran Kearney has returned to Coleraine. The love affair begins again for Kearney. He has a job on his hands. The clubs around him have the advantage of European money, and the investment into two of the clubs makes the top end of the league very competitive. Kearney may look at youth again, which worked well in his last spell, but will it be enough? His first job is to tie down Jamie McGonigle. It is no secret the Crues tried and failed to sign him at the start of the season. But with a year left on his contract, he needs to sign or move on and let the club cash in. There has been a bid tabled this week by an” unconfirmed club” but I am sure like everyone else we know who it is.
What can McGonigle bring to the Crues? Jordon Owens is Stephen Baxter’s first choice and probably will be until he can’t run anymore. The talented Ronan Hale warms the bench or plays out of position on the right. So how can Baxter justify signing and paying an exceptional amount for a player of McGonigle’s talent? I don’t think McGonigle will be a player that will be happy in the squad rotation system the Crues are using. Kearney was quick this week to show the door to Dylan Davidson and Dylan King. The pair are the first to make way as Kearney starts to get his plans in place for the new season.
Crusaders this week released Mark McCrystal. The big defender makes the move back to hometown club Derry City. Not always Baxter’sfirst choice but the big man always put a shift in when called upon. Good luck to Mark in the next chapter of his career.
What a season we are in for and I for one cannot wait. Have a great week everywhere and let us hope there are more great performances in Europe over the next few weeks. Great seeing the Irish League teams being mentioned around the UK and afar.