What a start to the season. Twenty-one goals scored, six of them from newly-promoted Larne. Glentoran and Glenavon could only produce a 1-1 draw and Oran Kearney’s homecoming didn’t go to plan. Crusaders get the season started with a win and another Jordon Owens header, while Ballymena United could only manage a draw away to Dungannon Swifts.
We have had investment and lots of transfers as well as the European adventures of Crusaders, Ballymena, Cliftonville and still Linfield. The much talked about summer football is still on people’s lips. While full-time football is another talking point. How can clubs finance it and expect people with careers outside the game to give it up for a two-year contract? The league is back and I am here on a weekly basis to bring you all the news and any talking points from the voice of a fan.
Let’s get the first round-up of the season started and get straight into it with the reigning champions Linfield. The Blues welcomed manager-less Institute to the National Stadium and got the season off to a winning start with a 3-1 win. The day didn’t get off to the perfect start for the champions. Stute took an early lead through a Joe McCready penalty. But the Blues class shone through and they got back on level terms through Kirk Millar. The Blues then took the lead through a wonderful strike from Jordon Stewart. He picked the ball up all of 35 yards out and unleashed a shot into the net. The scoring was rounded off in the second half when Ryan McGivern got his head onto a corner and powered the ball home. A good solid start for the champions.
The Larne twitter feed spelt it out, “Larne are back in the Premier League again”. Well, what a few years, and the helpful cheque book of one wealthy owner, has done… made this a club to be feared. Cast your mind back to the 2007-2008 season where Larne suffered relegation to the second tier of Irish League football because they couldn’t make the criteria for the new Premiership. 11 years on and they have come into the league with one of the best setups around. On Saturday they hosted Warrenpoint Town and thrashed the Co. Down team 6-0.
This is going to be a long hard season for the Point, but for Larne, they are going to be the team to beat. The bench alone spells quality. Saturday was the Martin Donnelly show. The little winger rolled back the years to put in a ‘man of the match’ performance. Donnelly got the first after what can only be described as lazy defending. Emmet Bennett was caught sleeping with the ball at his feet and Donnelly was on hand to steal the ball off him and finish. Number two and another mistake. What was Berraat Turker thinking inside his box with the ball at his feet? “Have I locked the door? Am I going out tonight?” It was clear to see he was not thinking of the game he was picked to play. Jeff Hughes simply took the ball off the daydreaming keeper and put it in the net.
Goals three and four came through Larne’s top striker David McDaid. Then we saw the goal of the game. Ex-Arsenal man Mark Randall had so much time in the middle of the park to control the ball, look up and lift the ball over the head of Turker from around 35 yards out. The goal-scoring was rounded off by who else, but Donnelly. He collected the ball inside the box and passed the ball past Turker. The Point looked like they are still in the middle of pre-season build-up. They just looked totally off the pace and not up to it. This is going to be a long season ahead for them and it doesn’t get any easier. Tuesday night see them host Crusaders.
Onto the Friday night game and the other team with the big investment – Glentoran. They travelled to Mournview Park, Lurgan to take on Glenavon. The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Glenavon playing the majority of the game with 10 men. The big talking point of the night for me was why Curtis Allen was on the bench. Now the rumour mill has already started. Allen is not willing to give up his day job and get on board with the Glens new training set-up. It is a hard one. Some players are not willing to give up the career they have outside the game. They make a good wage, and with the money off playing part-time football on top, they live a healthy life.
The game started well for the Glens. Darren Murray gave them the lead early on. The Lurgan Blues got back on level terms through a Sammy Clingan free-kick. Rhys Marshall then saw red for a second bookable offence to reduce the Lurgan Blues to 10 men. But looking at the footage of the tackle, he is lucky it wasn’t a straight red. That was it. The Glens left frustrated that they couldn’t break down the resilient ten men.
A new season and no change to the Crusaders philosophy. One long ball and Jordon Owens heads it home. Newly promoted Carrick Rangers were the visitors and ended up with a 3-0 defeat to the Crues. The Crues got the ball rolling through a long throw-in. Jordon Forsythe launched a long throw-in onto the head of Owens and the rest is history. Amazing how after so many years, teams have still not come to terms with this. The Crues’ second, and once again the tried and the tested tactic worked again. Colin Coates (back in the team after not being involved with the European adventure, the adventure that actually brings in the finances’ to pay the wages) launched a long ball up top which was flicked onto Paul Heatley who finished perfectly.
The Crues rounded off the scoring through Richard Clarke. He picked the ball up at the edge of the box and finished. A clean sheet from the Crues with the same defence as last season. But where does Chris Hegarty fit in? Micheal Ruddy is sitting on the bench. I really worry they will start this crazy rotation at the back. But a good win and a clean sheet.
Last seasons surprise package, Ballymena United, didn’t get off to the start I am sure they had hoped for. A 2-2 draw away to Dungannon Swifts. But a point is a point. Cathair Friel got the first goal of the game for the Sky Blues from the penalty spot. The Swifts got back on level terms in the second courtesy of on-loan striker Ryan Strain. Another debutant was next to get on the scoresheet. This time it was the Sky Blues’ Ross Lavery with a wonderful free-kick. The Swifts got the equaliser from the penalty spot with Seanan Clucas converting.
Last but not least it was the homecoming of Oran Kearney. Coleraine entertained Cliftonville in a game which ended up in a 1-1 draw. This is a big season for both these clubs. There is not going to be the time to slip up in the league with the quality and money that other clubs have. European football is going to be a hard push, maybe more for the Bannsiders than the Reds. The game was the tale of two strikers. Eoin Bradley opened the scoring for the Bannsiders. Only to see last season’s Danske Bank Premiership’s top goalscorer, Joe Gormley, equalise late on.
A great weekend of local football and it’s onto Tuesday night for round two of the Danske Bank Premiership.