The 2019-20 Season of the Danske Bank Premiership gets under way at Mourneview Park on Friday night (kick-off 7:45pm) when Glentoran are the visitors.
The last time the sides met was in the Europa League play-off semi-final game back in May which the Glens won 4-2 with a double from Darren Murray and goals from Curtis Allen and Robbie McDaid. Glenavon had twice come from behind with goals from Caolan Marron, his first for Glenavon, and Andrew Mitchell but went behind again just minutes after each equaliser before ex-Glenavon striker McDaid and Murray’s second made sure of the victory.
Before looking ahead to the match and the coming season Gary Hamilton paid tribute to Tommy Breslin who sadly passed away on holiday yesterday. “It’s tragic news. He and I were close, he was a great lad and I would like to send my condolences to Tommy’s family and friends and everyone at Cliftonville.”
With another season about to kick off Gary told us “I’ve been pleased with the boys in pre-season. With the technology we have now we’ve been able to see where they are compared to last year and every single player is up on their distance from last season. That means they’re fitter than last season. In terms of that side of it, it’s been a good pre-season and with Jack O’Mahony and Paddy Burns impressing on their return, as much as we haven’t signed any new players apart from Matthew Ferguson, those two lads are like new signings as they’ve come back and hit the ground running. Also having Doyler and Sammy back, who both missed a lot of last season, is a big plus for us too as they will strengthen the squad.”
“Obviously it’s been disappointing that we haven’t been able to add a little bit more to it but, as I’ve said before, I won’t just go out and sign players that I think aren’t worth the money that they’re asking for or they’re not better than what we have at the club. There have been players that I’ve identified that I think would improve us but, financially, we haven’t been able to compete. On the flip side other players who I think could improve us are asking for more money than I think they’re worth. With clubs like Linfield, Crusaders and Larne raising the bar in terms of wages, it inflates everybody else’s wages. I have to do what’s right for the club and make sure I spend the money wisely and don’t get dragged into this over-inflation of wages.”
“It’s going to be a tough season. Personally I think it will be the most competitive league since I’ve been manager of Glenavon. I might be proved wrong but there’s three clubs that stand out from everybody else in Larne, Crusaders and Linfield. By right those three should be competing for the first two spots that are automatic European places. It’s going to be difficult to qualify through our league position and even making the top six will be difficult this year because there are a lot of good teams who could have a good run and challenge for the top six places. It’s going to be competitive, it’s going to be a tough league but it’s a good challenge for the players. Realistically, the most probable chance of us getting into Europe is winning the Irish Cup. I’m sure that’s what a lot of the other teams are looking at too. You never know what will happen in football. I’m sure nobody would have given us a chance of finishing in the top three last season and we did; it depends on getting off to a good start which we did last year. There could be lots of twists and turns this year because of the quality of the teams in the league this year and the quality of the players.
“I’m happy with my squad and the group of players that I’ve got. Last season we did let ourselves down in a couple of instances and we had a run of only winning a couple of games in a run of ten or eleven. You can’t afford that kind of thing in this league. You need to grind out the wins in those circumstances and that’s where the experience of the likes of Doyler and Sammy and ‘Ribs’ Garrett, Eoin Wearen and Seamus Sharkey, who all joined us in January, comes in. Overall it was an unbelievable achievement for the players last season: finishing with the most points ever, finishing third again and above Crusaders, which was an amazing achievement for us.”
The match sponsor is the Triangle Glenavon Supporters Club, the ball sponsor is Barry Craig and the Glenavon man of the match award is sponsored by Craigavon Koi and Aquatics, Deans Road, Bleary.
A reminder that Darryl and Leanne McShane will be holding a collection to support the ‘Jeff Stelling’s March For Men’ which they are participating in in September. Please give generously to this very worthy cause.
Referee: Evan Boyce, Assistants: Neil Gillespie and Ken Ross, 4th Official: Andrew Davey