Belfast Telegraph

Stuart McKinley's Irish League predictions

Thirteen weeks after Linfield lifted the Irish Cup against Portadown, the new domestic season swings into action tomorrow. The summer break has flown in. Stuart McKinley is first up to call the opening day fixtures.

COLERAINE v GLENAVON

FIRST of all a big thank you to my colleagues for leaving it to me to have a stab in the dark on the first day of the season. It’s a day when anything can happen as teams know little about each other after a summer of new arrivals and managers with new ideas of how they want their teams to play.

This will be the first test of how Coleraine cope in the post-Rory Patterson era. Sammy Morrow can fill the void, if David Platt can keep him out of the clutches of English clubs.

We’ll also get an indication of how Glenavon’s summer capture Mark Miskimmin is going to shape up now that he’s no longer a Linfield player. Early last season he was compared to a young Peter Thompson. We’ll see how accurate those comparisons are now.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Coleraine 3-2 Glenavon

DONEGAL CELTIC v CRUSADERS

IT was only a few years ago that these two teams were meeting in the old First Division. It’s better to have them meeting in the Premiership.

Crusaders are a top flight club and now Donegal Celtic have the opportunity to prove that they are too — although it’s going to be very difficult for them to do so.

The battle between Donegal Celtic newboy Declan O’Hara and the Crusaders attack of David Rainey and new signing Michael Halliday will be an interesting one. O’Hara has never given any striker an easy ride.

If the Crues really want to be among the contenders this season then this is the kind of game they have to win, because their rivals will expect to.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Donegal Celtic 1-2 Crusaders.

LINFIELD v BALLYMENA

I REMEMBER the last time these two met on the opening day of a season three years ago. The Blues gave the Sky Blues an almighty 5-1 hammering, but it is mainly remembered for David Jeffrey accusing United fans of sectarian chanting during the match. Let’s hope they are all friends this time.

Nobody wants to face Linfield in the first game of the season and the Ballymena players and fans alike will still feel like that after the game.

One positive for the Sky Blues this summer was the signing of Gary |McCutcheon from Portadown. He will give better value for money than the departed Kevin Kelbie — ie, he’ll cost less but deliver more goals.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Linfield 3-0 Ballymena United.

LISBURN DISTILLERY v GLENTORAN

A YEAR ago the Glens went to Ballyskeagh on the opening day, wiped the floor with the Whites and Alan McDonald was hailed in all quarters after his team played their best football under his management. Only problem was it only lasted 90 minutes.

The two clubs are a lot different now, with managerial changes at both since then and there have been big personnel changes at the Whites.

No change in the outcome though.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: |Lisburn Distillery 1-2 Glentoran.

NEWRY v DUNGANNON

NEWRY want to be a top six team, Dungannon were last season. It’s going to be very difficult for both to achieve that aim this time around.

Newry’s signings make them look stronger, while Dungannon appear to have been weakened by the loss of Neil McCafferty and Alvin Rouse.

There is a pretty decent possibility of these two teams swapping places from last season come the end of April.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: |Newry City 2-2 Dungannon Swifts.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph