Fulton out to find special blend for assault on title
Belfast Star coach Adrian Fulton says he is excited about his new-look side as they look to challenge for silverware this year.
The launch of the league along with the draw for the National Cup was held in Dublin yesterday and expectations are certainly higher going into this season after last year's campaign when Fulton and assistant coach Javan Dupree turned the club back into a major force again.
Fulton has brought in a new 22-year-old American in Delaney Blaylock along with 6ft 8' Serbian DJ Stankovic and also 6ft 10' Irish international Keelan Cairns, who returns to the club after a period in Europe. In addition, Fulton has put his faith in some new young blood as Star prepare to see if they can build on the success of last year when the Belfast men made the semi-finals of the National Cup and the final of the All Ireland Super League play-offs.
Once again big guns Templeogue, Tralee and Killester will be seen as challengers for the three pieces of silverware but Fulton believes his men can be in the mix - if he can make sure his new players gel into the threat he expects.
"I think we have a chance to be very good again this year but we will have to blend all the pieces together quickly," said Fulton, whose side start their campaign on Saturday night with a home clash against Templeogue.
"Templeogue defeated us three times last year, albeit we only had a full team on one occasion and it was a two-point game. We couldn't have been given a more difficult start, home to Templeogue, away to Tralee Warriors and then away to Killester as they were the ones who shared the silverware last year but I've been encouraged by what I've seen in pre-season.
"Delaney Blaylock from Lewis University in Chicago is someone who I think our home fans are going to love but it will take him a few weeks to adjust to the league, while Stankovic has impressed us greatly.
"It's also great to have Keelan Cairns back from playing professionally in Italy last year and Adam Ryan is back after playing and coaching in Norway."
While Fulton's Star took a major step forward last season, their progression was stunted by the injuries to talented twins Conor and Aidan Quinn and both men required surgery in the summer.
"Conor recently had elbow surgery and is a huge loss but we hope to have him back after Christmas but thankfully Aidan has just returned after wrist surgery.
"Sean Quinn, Conor Ryan and CJ Fulton all return and we plan to continue to give more of our young players such as Conor McDonnell, Conor Cooke, Jack Summersgill, Niall Hurson and Cormac O'Rourke an opportunity to practice with our Super League team and potentially get some game time as the season progresses.
"Dominic Lynn, who showed he can perform really well at Super League level last season, will return at the start of October from working in Canada over the summer and we hope he can continue to develop and contribute consistently at this level. Overall I think we've got an exciting squad and I'm sure the fans will enjoy another good season."
Star's National Cup campaign will start with an away trip to Maree over the weekend of October 26-27.