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Bring on the Big Two, says Whites' boss Kirk

By Stuart McKinley

Lisburn Distillery manager Paul Kirk is undaunted by the fixture list throwing up a home game with Linfield when the Irish FA Premiership kicks-off on August 9.

Facing the three-times champions in the opening game of their defence of the title may strike fear into the heart of some bosses, but not Kirk.

That's because the Whites chief expects every game to a battle under the new 12-team structure.

"It's a tough start and with Glentoran coming to us as well before the end of the first month we are right into the thick of the action," said Kirk.

"It would have been equally as tough if we'd have been away from home against the likes of Ballymena United or Dungannon Swifts.

"There will be no easy games in this league. I expect all 12 teams to be competitive and capable of beating each other. That's what we want though.

"I have tried to strengthen my squad and after finishing just a couple of points away from a UEFA Cup place last season we have set a standard that we'll be working hard to maintain."

l Bangor chief executive Bill Peden last night sent out a warning to the rest of the clubs in the new Irish FA Premiership.

The Seasiders were the surprise name on the list when the 12 teams involved in the new league were unveiled last month £ and Peden is promising more shocks.

"I have heard a few people saying that we will be the whipping boys of the new league," said Peden.

"We got ourselves into a position to enter the new league and that surprised quite a few people.

"We surprised everyone by getting a manager of the calibre of Marty Quinn £ one of the top managers in the country £ and hopefully there will be a few more to come.

"We will open a few people's eyes and we'll be in their fighting from day one."

Bangor were the only club from outside last season's top flight to make the new league and Peden is delighted the hard work paid off.

"The challenge for everyone at Bangor is massive, not just for the manager and the players, but from the board right down and we are ready for it," he added.

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