Belfast Telegraph

McFall dreams big after Portadown's new arrivals

By Stuart McKinley

Ronnie McFall's vast managerial experience means that when he talks it makes sense to listen.

So when he says that Portadown are going to come in strong this season, his rivals in dugouts across the Irish League should take notice.

And there is plenty to back up McFall's expectation that the Ports will put up a challenge to Cliftonville, Linfield, Crusaders et al as he goes for a fifth title in almost 28 years at Shamrock Park.

After a lifetime in management McFall knows a decent player when he sees one, which is why he snapped up Robert Garrett from Linfield even before the season had ended.

When the Blues then released former captain Michael Gault and striker Mark McAllister, McFall moved quickly to sign them too.

"We knew last year that we were short in the central midfield area especially," said McFall.

"We feel that the two players we have brought in there, Michael Gault and Robert Garrett, are two top class Irish League players and they have proved that over the years and I have no doubt they will be a big plus for us."

While the Ports were lacking punch in midfield last season, there was no shortage of strength in attack.

When you have Darren Murray out-scoring a class act like Gary Twigg you know it's a strikeforce that is delivering.

Now though, the Ports have added the skills of McAllister, which not only allows McFall to adapt his formation, but the battle for places if he goes with two up front will bring out the best in the trio.

"Last year we only had two strikers, Gary Twigg and Darren Murray and we needed that bit of competition and Mark will give us something different," said McFall.

There will also be a chance for young players to shine at Shamrock this season.

Jordan Lyttle – one of the graduates from last season's Harry Cavan Youth Cup winning team – could figure against Linfield tomorrow with Gary Breen, Chris Ramsey, Emmet Friars and Gault all suspended.

Shea Conaty, Marcio Soares, Caolan Skelton, Jake Richardson and Christian Stewart have all figured in pre-season and that's unlikely to be the last we see of them between now and the end of April.

Ross Redman is back to full fitness after missing almost all of last season with a cruciate ligament injury, winger Peter McMahon impressed last season and with a year's more experience he will be one to watch.

Add the likes of David Miskelly, now in his 10th year at the club, captain Keith O'Hara, starting his 16th season in the first team and Tim Mouncey and you see a real fusion of youth and experience.

Getting a good start is key though and taking points off the Blues and then Cliftonville – who arrive at Shamrock Park on Wednesday night – would be huge, but circumstances dictate that it will be a tough task to win those games.

"We have five players out for the first two games of the season," said McFall.

"It's unfortunate, but we've no doubt with the quality we have that we'll be competitive the whole year and I've no doubt that when we've everyone fit and available that we'll make a really strong challenge this year."

Now don't say that you weren't warned.

Belfast Telegraph

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