The draw for the opening stages of the Steel and Sons Cup was made this week and it has thrown up some intriguing ties for East Antrim sides, writes John Gillespie.
Championship 1 outfits Larne and Ballyclare Comrades will both enjoy home comfort in the opening round (August 17) against Shorts and Lower Maze respectively. Michael Hughes’ Carrick Rangers look like they will have free Saturday early in the season after they were granted a bye. They will host Crusaders Reserves in a second-round tie (August 31).
Also through to the second round is Amateur League side Islandmagee who welcome PSNI to Wilbourne Park. The game could see a quick return to the Island for Tyson Gray who made the switch to Newforge recently.
Nortel are on their travels to Ballywalter Rec in round one and also on the road are Newington Rangers who take on Carniny Amateurs in the first round.
Meanwhile, Gary Burns’ Ballynure Old Boys will be up against familiar opposition in Ballymena League stablemates Brantwood at Skegoneill Avenue.
Intermediate new boys Rathcoole FC face a Steel and Sons baptism of fire against HW Welders. Kilroot Rec, who failed to win a single league game last season, will have something to prove against Downshire YM and Bill Campbell’s Rathfern will be out for the scalp of Chimney Corner at The Diamond.
Garry Campbell’s 18th Newtownabbey will have to be at their best to cause an upset against Crumlin Star, but the game will be played on their home turf at Cloyne Crescent.
In round two they don’t come much bigger for Ballymena and Provincial League outfit FC Ballynure than Linfield Swifts. Elsewhere, UUJ have been paired with Bryansburn Rangers, Mossley welcome Ballynahinch United and Jim Pherson’s Barn United are away to winners of Queen’s or Ballymena United Reserves.
Johnny Hastings’ Larne Tech will be on red alert when they take on Cliftonville Reserves at Dennis Harvey Park.