Football returns with Ballymena hosting Crusaders tonight

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The new season was officially launched at Windsor Park this week

By Q Radio Sport

The Danske Bank Premiership season kicks off tonight with Ballymena United hosting Crusaders at Warden Street.

The game between the teams who finished fourth and second in the last campaign starts at 7.45pm. 

Sky Blues vice-chairman Don Stirling explains why it's the only fixture this evening:

Moving to Saturday and there are five more matches tomorrow.  Champions Linfield start their title defence at home to Carrick Rangers.

Blues boss David Healy says he's wary of Davy McAlinden's men:

Coleraine, third last time, face Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park.

New Bannsiders midfielder Josh Carson says it's a tough place to start the season...

Barry Gray's Cliftonville welcome Ards to Solitude. 

It'll be a return to competitive action for record-breaking Reds striker Joe Gormley - two years after he moved to Peterborough United and then picked up a serious injury:

However, Ards manager Colin Nixon says he knows what to expect after playing against 'Joe the Goal' at the end of his own Irish League career:.

After a lowly ninth place finish, Glentoran will hope to kick-start a revival when they travel to Ballinamallard.

Glens player Marcus Kane coming up after manager Gary Haveron...

Those four matches kick-off at 3pm.


Meanwhile, Warrenpoint have a 5.30pm start for their return to the Premiership, a Mid-Ulster derby against visiting Glenavon.

Former Portadown striker Darren Murray is hoping to hit the target on his Point debut...

Lurgan Blues keeper Jonathan Tuffey stands in Murray's way.

He's also welcomed Gary Hamilton signing his former Northern Ireland teammate Sammy Clingan:

So the stage is set for the 2017/18 campaign and Northern Ireland Football League Managing Director Andrew Johnston says whatever match you go to you should get your money's worth.

For a full breakdown of each team heading into the new season, check out Q Radio Sports club-by-club guide. 

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