Hope springs eternal as new campaign kicks off

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Fasten your seatbelts. Here we go again.

The new Championship 1 season begins today and it promises to provide all usual thrills and spills of campaigns gone by (some more memorable than others, admittedly).

This year we have the full compliment of East Antrim sides in the one division - Carrick Rangers, Larne and Ballyclare. It’s derby central. (Even if Ballyclare, strictly speaking, is in South Antrim).

The summer weather is still with us (that’s the kiss of death, right there) and for the sun-baked fans of the Inver Reds, the ‘Gers and the Comrades, hope springs eternal (although few would dare verbalise it) that maybe, just maybe, this could be ‘the year’.

Carrick have set their stall out good and proper: Michael Hughes hasn’t messed about in the tranfer window. Damien Curran, Richard Gibson and Aaron Smyth, not forgetting Abby Sanusi have all arrivedthrough those big gates at Taylor’s Avenue over the last few months. Hughes wants promotion and all the better if he can achieve it by winning the title. With the quality in his squad, few would bet against them.

Down Inver way, Graham McConnell has also been a busy man, introducing a string of new signings. In came Stuart King, Daryll Kernohan, Mark Picking and Josh McAllister, to name but a few.

McConnell will be keen to avoid a repeat of the poor start Larne endured last season under his predecessor, Tommy Kincaid. He knows the club really is a sleeping giant and if his side can get out of the blocks early, they can surprise a few people. One thing’s for sure: he will have his men well drilled and fit for the fight.

And don’t dismiss newly-promoted Ballyclare as relegation fodder. Eddie Hill has a group brimming with self-belief after a remarkable 10-game winning streak saw them fly up the Championship 2 table last year. They are back where they belong and if pre-season results are anything to go by, they will do more than alright in their new surrounds of the second tier.

Let the games begin.