Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Local football leagues boosted by Belfast Telegraph

On the ball: marking the Belfast Telegraph's continued sponsorship of Championships 1 and 2 are (from left) Championship Committee Chairman Fred Magee, Group Sports Editor Jim Gracey and NI Football League Marketing and Communications manager Graeme Beggs

The best intermediate leagues in Northern Ireland will once again have an extra kick to them when the new season kicks-off – thanks to the Belfast Telegraph. For a fourth successive season, Championship 1 and Championship 2 – the top leagues outside the Premiership – will be sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph.

And the Telegraph will once again lead the way in terms of reporting, with Championship football covered extensively in this very newspaper during the 2014-15 season.

Confirming the sponsorship renewal, Belfast Telegraph Group Sports Editor Jim Gracey said: "The Premiership is Northern Ireland domestic football's flagship, but Championships 1 and 2 are important, too.

"They are a vital link in the chain between the grassroots, junior football and the top division.

"Clubs at that level often struggle to balance the books and we hope our involvement and coverage will aid their development, raise their profile and help provide a supply line of players to the top level which is what the pyramid system of football is all about."

Over the last two seasons teams promoted from Belfast Telegraph Championship 1 have punched above their weight in the Premiership, with first Ballinamallard United and then Warrenpoint Town comfortably consolidating their positions in the top flight.

In the new season, 2013 Championship 1 winners Ards will attempt to return to the Premiership following their relegation, but last season's Championship 2 winners Armagh City – who knocked Ards out of the Irish Cup during a season in which they were unbeaten at home – will be fancied to shoot themselves straight into the promotion mix.

Bangor, who missed out on the Championship 1 title on the last day of the season, will again have promotion in their sights, with Knockbreda, Carrick Rangers and Loughgall all expected to challenge.

In Championship 2, Queen's University, who enjoyed a fairytale run to the semi-finals of the Irish Cup, will have their sights set on promotion after just missing out last time around, with relegated Limavady United also eyeing an immediate return to Championship 1.

All the action will be covered in the Belfast Telegraph.

Andrew Johnston, Managing Director of the NI Football League, is delighted to have secured the Belfast Telegraph for another season.

"This is fantastic news for Championship football in Northern Ireland," said Johnston.

"We have an excellent relationship with the Belfast Telegraph and crucially this partnership works really well for both parties as it provides the clubs with an excellent level of coverage and exposure to fans all across the country through the newspaper, but also around the world via the Belfast Telegraph app and website."

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Warren Feeney picked himself in the starting line-up for his first game as Linfield manager last night.

The Blues beat Loughgall 2-1 at Lakeview Park, with Conor McMenamin and Jimmy Callagher scoring in the second half, after Feeney had replaced his entire starting line up at half time.

Meanwhile, Linfield's home Europa League tie against B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands will take place on Tuesday, July 8 at Mourneview Park. The first leg date has yet to be confirmed.

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Glenavon beat Crumlin United 7-0 in their first pre-season friendly.

The Irish Cup winner's goals came from Ciaran Martyn, Guy Bates (2), Andrew Hoey, Gary Hamilton, David Rainey and Kevin Braniff.

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