Club-by-club guide to the new Irish Premiership season

You are viewing content from Q Mid Ulster 106. Would you like to make this your preferred location?
Linfield were crowned champions last May

By Richard O'Reilly

The new Irish Premiership season kicks-off this weekend when Crusaders travel to Ballymena on Friday night.

The Crues will hope to get off to a good start as they look to wrestle the title back from Linfield.

Q Radio Sport looks at the prospects for all 12 teams.


Last Season: Champions

Manager: David Healy

How do you improve on Linfield's 2016/17 season?  The Blues took home a treble of trophies, landing the Irish Premiership crown, the Irish Cup and the County Antrim Shield.  The trophy haul comes largely thanks to a near flawless second half to the season for David Healy's men

The addition of Josh Robinson will bolster an already strong squad. While Jordan Stewart and Andrew Mitchell look like shrewd signings.


Last Season: Runners-up

Manager: Stephen Baxter

For half a season the Crues looked on course to make it three titles on the bounce, (at one point holding a 9 point lead at the top) until Linfield relentlessly hunted them down.

Stephen Baxter's men will no doubt be the biggest challengers to the Blues . Brian Jensen, Sean Ward, Mark McChrystal, Mark McAllister, and Jamie Glackin are the key additions and will only strengthen the men from Seaview.

One signing the Crues missed out on is that of Josh Robinson, who was bizarrely claimed by both Crusaders and Linfield.  Robinson eventually declared for the Blues. 


Last Season: 3rd

Manager: Oran Kearney

Ah but for a better festive period.  Oran Kearney's men at times looked very impressive, putting together multiple unbeaten stretches.  However one win in December last season put the brakes on any dreaming that may have taken place at the Showgrounds.  

However there's much to admire about the Bannsiders; a young side with some home grown talent played exciting football last year. The team's recovery after the festive period to take third spot also can't be understated.

A long term injury to James McLaughlin is an unwelcome way to begin a campaign, however if strikers Eoin Bradley and Jamie McGonigle can stay fit, the Bannsiders should have no trouble scoring goals.

 A run to the Irish Cup final capped of a decent campaign for the Stripes, and another cup run this year would be considered a successful season.

Ballymena United:

Last Season: 4th

Manager: David Jeffrey

The Sky Blues are beginning to look very much like a David Jeffrey side.  A Legue Cup win delivered some much  needed silverware to Warden Street, while a highest league finish in over 30 years capped off a solid season.

Ballymena had no problem scoring goals last time out, with the likes of Cathair Friel and Tony Kane finding the net with regularity.  However keeping the goals out will be the question facing David Jeffrey's men this campaign. Jeffrey will be hoping new defensive acqusitions Andrew Burns and Emmet Friars can do just that. 

Ballymena look to be heading in the right direction, and under David Jeffrey they have a manger who will help in that journey.


Last season; 5th

Manager: Barry Gray

Cliftonville paid for a dip in form in the second half of the season.  With new manager Barry Gray at the helm, the Reds faithful will be hoping for a more consisitent season from a side that often looked like it promised much.

 Goalkeepers Brian Neeson and Brett Long have been added to the ranks, as has centre-back Jamie Harney.

Striker Joe Gormley has also returned to Solitude following a spell at Peterborough United.  Barry Gray's side will have to hit the ground running as much will be expected from the Cliftonville fans who don't often settle for fifth.


Last Season: 6th

Manager: Gary Hamilton

Glenavon went into last season marked by many as potential title challengers,  however a chronic lack of goals did for the Mourneview side.

A two-legged loss to Ballymena in the Europa league playoff compounded an inauspicious season for the Lurgan Blues.  One reason to be cheerfull however, is the addition of last season's top goalscorer two their ranks. Andy Mitchell headed to Mourneview from Dungannon Swifts, which Gary Hamilton will hope cures their goalscoring woes from last season.

Dungannon Swifts:

Last Season: 7th

Manager: Rodney McAree

The loss of trio Andy Mitchell, Andrew Burns and Jamie Glackin cannot be understated.  Particularly the departure of Andy Mitchell to Glenavon may make it difficult for Swifts to improve on last season's 7th place finish.

Another good cup run would be welcome at Stangmore, with Swifts coming close to the Irish Cup final last season, only to be undone in the last four by eventual winners Linfield.

 New recruits Ryan Mayse, former Ballinamallard right-back Liam McMenamin and goalkeeper Liam Hughes should go some way toward helping Rodney McAree's men build on a decent 2016/17 campaign.


Last Season: 8th

Manager: Colin Nixon

It seems a long time since Ards were the 'surprise package' of the Irish Premiership season.  The north Down side rattled out of the blocks and were the early pacesetters of last season.

The club were unable to sustain that vein of form, however a 8th place finish on their return to top-flight football must go down as a successful season.

The loss of manager Niall Currie to Portadown midway through the season caused a distraction, however Colin Nixon has shown himself a more than capable replacement.

Nathan Hanley and Linfield pair Johnny Frazer and Michael McLellan are among several signings to make the switch to Ards.


Last Season 9th

Manager : Gary Haveron

Finishing 43 points behind Champions and bitter rivals Linfield will have hurt the east Belfast side.  Before any talk of a return to the glory days, Manager Gary Haveron's task will be to drive the Glens higher up the table.

After taking over from Alan Kernaghan last season, Haveron's side endured up and down form and rarely looked like climbing the table.

The Oval crowd will demand an improvement.

Ballinamallard United:

Last Season: 10th

Manager: Gavin Dykes

The Ferney Park outfit will once again aim to stay clear of the relegation dogfight.  The loss of Ryan Mayse will not help that, however Richard Clarke's arrival from Crusaders will provide osme much needed experience.

An improvement on last season's 10th place would be welcome for the Mallards, however securing Premiership football for another season would be acceptable.

Carrick Rangers:

Last Season: 11th

Manager: David McAlinden

Carrick survived relegation after a two-legged playoff win over Championship outfit Institute. That coupled with a run to the League Cup final gives McAlinden's men a platform to build from.

The Taylors Avenue crowd would welcome a bit more breathing space from relegation this time around.  Carrick were rarely out of the relegation fight, and this time around the safety net of  Portadown side with a 12 point deduction will not be there.

Warrenpoint Town:

Last Season: 1st (Championship)

Manager: Matthew Tipton

Point bounced back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, following their relegation in 2016.  However it may be a long season for Matthew Tipton's men, with many tipping the County Down Club for a return to the Championship come May.

Goalkeeper Alan Blayney, frontman Darren Murray join midfielders Sean Mackle and Neil McCafferty as some of the new recruits at Warrenpoint Town.

Premiership survival will be considered a solid season from the 'Point.

More from Q Radio Local Sport

Join the Thank Q Club

Sign up for the Thank Q Club and receive exclusive offers, fun competitions and amazing prizes - it's quick and easy to do!

Sign Up Log In

Listen on the go

Download the Q Radio app to keep listening, wherever you are! It's available on Apple and Android devices.

Download from the App Store Download from Google Play