Larne’s season kicks off tonight and striker Lee Bonis is focused on hitting the big time.
The 22-year-old will enjoy his first taste of European football in the opening leg of the Europa Conference League first qualifying round tie against St Joseph’s in Gibraltar (6pm).
A win would see Tiernan Lynch’s side take on Czech Republic outfit Slavia Prague and the Invermen will feel inspired by last year’s heroics when they reached the third qualifying round following victories against Bala Town of Wales and Denmark’s AGF Aarhus, before losing to Portugal’s Pacos de Ferreira.
Bonis’ high profile £100,000 transfer from Portadown to Larne in January offered the player a platform to further showcase his talent and enhance his repuation both at club and international level.
The frontman has featured for the Northern Ireland Under-21 international team and has aspirations of playing for the senior side as well as thriving in the full-time game across the water.
“This will be my first game in Europe so I’m very excited. I’m relishing the challenge and it will be interesting to see what it’s like,” said Bonis.
“Larne did very well last summer and hopefully we can do something similar but the games will difficult and that potential tie with Sparta Prague would be a big test.
“I think European football shines a light on the league and its quality. You can learn from other teams as you try to develop your own game.
“I’ve been in the full-time structure since January last season so I’m hoping to hit the ground running this year and enjoy a good campaign as a full-time footballer. I want to keep progressing and moving up the levels. When I was a kid, my ambition was to play in England or Scotland as a full-time player so my move to Larne is a stepping stone and you never know where your career might lead.
“I want a good run of games and to score goals then someone might take notice but I want that full-time chance in England or Scotland. That’s my aim and hopefully I’ll take that step and make the Northern Ireland squad too.
“Conor (McMenamin) got called into the senior squad so if you are playing well, scoring goals and creating assists, anything is possible.
"It’s nice to see players getting a call-up, it shows if you put the work in you will get noticed. I think more people are taking notice of the league and that determination among the young players like myself to get a move is pushing them on.”