The first few matches of the season have thrown up something of a mixed bag for Dundela, so Mark Snodden will take nothing for granted when his team face Championship One new boys PSNI in the second round of the Toals Steel & Sons Cup this Saturday.
So far, his side have beaten Loughgall and lost to Ballyclare Comrades and Dergview in the league, but the cup competitions will be as likely an indicator as anything of the capabilities of this new-look team.
A forthcoming encounter with Carrick Rangers in the Wasp Solutions League Cup on Tuesday night will test their metal, and Snodden anticipates an equally challenging task in their meeting with the Police at the weekend.
He said: “I don’t think the PSNI have got off to the best of starts, but they will want to make a stamp on the Championship and under Jamesie Kirk, I expect them to be well organised and have a good season ahead of them.
“People are obviously going to talk about us among the favourites for the Steel & Sons Cup with us being the holders, but that is one of the biggest things we are up against. When you are the holders, everyone wants to beat you.”
For anyone who watched Dundela in last year’s final, they appeared to make relatively light work of highly-rated amateurs Immaculata. It seemed to be a similar story in the first round of this season’s Steel & Sons Cup, where they disposed of fellow Amateur League outfit Rosario YC 3-0.
Yet Snodden is much too experienced to ever take underdogs lightly, having lost 3-1 to Albert Foundry in a pre-season friendly.
He continued: “As a manager, you don’t read too much into the results during the summer – it’s more about fitness and personnel. Still, you don't like to get beaten by anyone.
“What it does show is that Amateur League clubs can be a serious handful, and a lot of them do get up for the big occasion, especially in the cups. It could be interesting, because if we beat the PSNI, I think we play the winners of Albert Foundry v Broomhedge in the third round.”
What an incentive for Snodden’s largely youthful side, who will be out to prove they can do the business without the services of influential summer departures Kyle Cherry (Carrick Rangers), Owain Beggs (Ards) and Daniel Burns (Loughgall).
Toals Steel & Sons Cup second round (1.30pm kick-off): Islandmagee v Comber Rec, Glentoran II v Ballymoney United, Kilroot Rec v Sport & Leisure Swifts, Crumlin United v Larne Tech OB, Drumaness Mill v Crusaders Reserves, Dromara Village v Larne, Ballysillan Swifts v Newington YC, Barn United v Crumlin Star, PSNI v Dundela, Ards v Shorts, Holywood v Bangor Swifts, Ballymena United Reserves v Cliftonville Olympic, Dunmurry Rec v Nortel, Lisburn Rangers v Ballymacash Rangers, Brantwood v Queen’s University, Bangor v Downpatrick, 1 Bangor v Abbey Villa, Knockbreda v Downshire YM, Malachians v Ballynure OB, Saintfield United v Ballynahinch Olympic, Ballynahinch United East Belfast, Albert Foundry v Broomhedge, Ballywalter Rec v Rathcoole, Colin Valley v University of Ulster Jordanstown, Lisburn Distillery v Kilmore Rec, Grove United v Bloomfield, Orangefield v Carrick Rangers, Sirocco Works v 18 Newtownabbey OB, Derriaghy CC v Bangor Amateurs, Donegal Celtic v Iveagh United, Harland & Welders v Immaculata, St Patrick’s YM v Lower Maze.