Swifts' top six hopes over: McAree
Rodney McAree has written off Dungannon Swifts' chances of making the top six this season.
After their stunning League Cup final triumph over Ballymena United, the Co Tyrone side return to league action today against basement team Ballinamallard at Stangmore Park.
A series of cup games means Dungannon have played just one league fixture since January 27 - a 0-0 draw at Linfield on February 10.
They now face a hectic run of matches, starting against the Mallards. Dungannon sit eighth, six points behind Ballymena, who are seventh, and eight behind sixth-placed Glentoran.
And while a top six finish was the goal at the start of the season, McAree accepts the chances of that are all but gone.
However, he believes seventh - which brings a play-off for European qualification - is achievable.
"I think the top six, being honest, is probably out of our grasp when you look at the rest of the games," he said. "I don't see us closing the gap when Ballymena have two games in hand on us.
"But you look at seventh, with 11 games left - there's a lot of points to play for. My initial target is to get seventh spot. If we get something beyond that, someone will have blown up in front of us. I don't expect us to get sixth, so we have to target seventh. We have to challenge ourselves now to finish seventh and give ourselves the chance of getting into the European play-off."
McAree said they cannot dwell on the cup win, and added: "It's about getting back to basics.
"We've enjoyed the last few days but we have to focus again on the league and the home game against Ballinamallard. It's one that we'll look forward to."
Meanwhile, teenage goalkeeper Liam Hughes, who has represented Northern Ireland at Under-17 level, has joined Celtic's Academy.