THE new Donegal Junior League season rolls into action tonight when the derby sparks fly at Orchard Park as Lagan Harps and Drumoghill FC cross swords in the opening round of the Brian McCormick Cup (kick-off 7.30pm).
Lagan are under the strewardship of former Kildrum Tigers, Letterkenny Rovers and Swilly Rovers midfielder Keith Hegarty, who was a member of the backroom team last year.
Hegarty takes over from Danny O’Carroll and has set his sights on returning the club to the Premier Division.
Lagan suffered heartache last season when they lost a promotion/relegation play-off to Gweedore Celtic 4-2 on penalties after a pulsating 3-3 draw.
“Our aim has to be promotion this year after being beaten in that play-off,” said Hegarty.
“We have to progress, but we’ll men to step up if we’re going to do that. Playing good football doesn’t necessarily win you Leagues at this level. We’ll have to be up for the battle.”
And a battle royale is what is expected in Manorcunningham, where the two close derby rivals meet in a game that kicks off the new campaign in style.
Michael Lynch is back at the helm of Drumoghill and has had a busy transfer window with entries into both the credit and debit sides of his ledger.
John Sweeney (Canada) and Richie Moore (England) have left the country, although Moore is expected back in October, while David O’Carroll has retired. Terence Shiels has re-signed for Letterkenny Rovers, Eunan Kelly has joined his native Convoy Arsenal and Pajo Rafferty seems set to sign for Glencar Celtic.
On the plus side, left-back Benny Bonner has signed at The Moss from Drumkeen United – who have announced that they won’t be entering the Ulster Senior League this year – while Ray Quinn and Paddy Collins have joined from Glencar and Keith Malseed’s return from injury gives Lynch another option.
The acquisition of ex-Finn Harps player Gerard McGranaghan, who is back in Ireland having spent some time in Spain, looks a useful piece of business by Drumoghill with the Raphoe man set to form a formidable middle line alongside Phillip Whyte and Chris Malseed.
Drumoghill were runners-up to St Catherine’s in the Premier Division last season (pictured above) and, while Lynch is targeting an improvement, he knows well the pitfalls of getting ahead of oneself at this early juncture.
“I’m still on the lookout for a couple of players,” Lynch said.
“It’s very hard the way football is going to compare one season to the next.
“Lifford were relegated last year and won the League the season beforehand so you just can’t predict these things. A few teams have lost players with the Ulster Senior League going back to the winter season, but overall the League is very strong.”