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Villagers aim to hit the ground running

Tomorrow afternoon sees Loughgall start their defence of the Ladbrokes.com Championship One title with a home tie against Ballyclare Comrades.

With the introduction of the Championship Licence, which will allow clubs one year leeway to gain a domestic licence once in the Premiership, we may well witness a proper promotion battle. Although it will be some months before most clubs declare their hand.

The uncertainty over the possibility of promotion hasn’t stopped the Championship clubs from bringing in some big name new signings. Champions Loughgall have snapped up former Linfield winger Chris Kingsberry from Bangor.

Kingsberry said: “I won a lot of medals at Linfield and that‘s why I wanted to sign for Loughgall. They’ve won a lot of trophies in recent years and that’s something I want to be involved in.”

Championship Two winners The Welders will be hoping to do much more than avoid relegation with a number of big name signings including Craig McMillen and Dee Irvine. One of last seasons stars Mark Magennis is confident the east Belfast side can make an impact at the top of the table: “We know it‘s going to be a tough league but we‘ve a lot of quality players and I‘m confident we I can do it at a higher level.”

Last seasons fourth place side Ards have brought in midfielder Darren Lockhart from Ballymena United. Lockhart may have 13 years of top flight experience but he still respects the Championship. He said: “This may be a step down in level for me but there are a lot of good teams in this division. Loughgall are a useful outfit and Oran Kearney has a very impressive team at Limavady now. I‘m looking forward to the challenge.”

Belfast Telegraph