Swifts' band of rising stars can make a major impact: Clucas
Dungannon Swifts 2 Ballymena United 2
New Dungannon Swifts captain Seanan Clucas believes their young and talented squad can fill the gap left by some big name departures.
It has been a summer of change at Stangmore Park, with the exit of experienced players such as Christopher Hegarty and Jarlath O'Rourke.
The team that started against Ballymena on Saturday had five players aged 20 or under. Yet they performed capably to hold last season's runners-up in an entertaining curtain-raiser.
Clucas, who has replaced Hegarty as captain, netted a late penalty in the 2-2 draw.
"We have lost a few big players, but the boys that have come in have been super and don't look out of place," he said. "It's up to them to take that on and be leaders, like Jarlath and Christopher. They are big boots to fill but I am very confident that those boys can fill them."
An error by keeper Sam Johnston, one of four Swifts debutants, led to Cathair Friel giving Ballymena a half-time lead.
Another new arrival, Ryan Waide, levelled with his first Premiership goal after an Oisin Smyth shot had been parried.
It seemed Ballymena had nicked it when sub Ross Lavery scored two minutes from the end. But Clucas' 90th-minute penalty, awarded after a foul on Rhyss Campbell, secured a point.
For Ballymena, it was a frustrating afternoon. Yet boss David Jeffrey said: "It was a fair reflection of the game. Dungannon is a hard place to come - I'm not going home displeased."
DUNGANNON: Johnston, Coyle (Taylor, 90 mins), King, McGuinness, Teggart, Clucas, Smyth, Lowe, Patton (Campbell, 68 mins), Carvill, Waide. Unused subs: Addis, McGinty, Marcal, Gallagher.
BALLYMENA: Ross Glendinning, Addis, Kane (McGrory, 74 mins), Ervin, McCullough, Winchester (Lavery, 67 mins), Harpur (McGinty, 85 mins), Millar, Balmer, Mayse, Friel. Unused subs: Williamson, Whiteside, Carvill, Kelly.
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)
Man of the match: Caomhan McGuinness
Match rating: 8/10