Glengad United’s quest for a fifth successive Jackie Crossan Premier Division title begins on Sunday – and Shane Byrne’s desire for glory remains as high as ever.
Glengad have swept Inishowen’s boards in recent years and they host Redcastle at The Crua on Sunday.
Byrne has bid farewell to Shane Canning, while goalkeeper Kevin McLaughlin is now in Australia.
Coming in the revolving door are Dillon Ruddy and Daniel Mullarkey from neighbours Culdaff, plus Conor Barrow from Quigley’s Point Swifts.
“You have to raise the bar all the time,” Byrne says.
“We don’t go outside for too many players. we have in Conor and Dillon this year. Daniel is from Glengad. We had Shane and Nigel McMonagle before that. We take in quality to push the other players on for their starting spots.
“A lot of things in a dressing room have to change from year to year. Taking in new players helps keep it fresh and keeps a competitive edge.”
The backbone of the squad has stayed the same, led by the captain John Gerard McLaughlin and with key features like Matthew, Michael and Adam Byrne and goalscoring ace Terence Doherty, who is expected to return to action this weekend, having been rested for their League Cup group.
Glengad missed out on a place in the semi-finals having lost out to Greencastle 3-2 on the opening day of the season.
Glengad have managed to stave off competition from Clonmany Shamrocks, Buncrana Hearts and Aileach FC to remain top dogs.
After Redcastle this weekend, Aileach head for the Lakeside to tackle Aileach on Sunday-week – a schedule that rankles with the Glengad boss, who will be without several players due to Malin having a senior championship match the same day.
He said: “The only two teams affected are Culdaff and ourselves but, yet again, we have the short end of the stick: We have one of the toughest fixtures, away, and Culdaff have a free weekend.
“That fixture is sticking in my craw at the minute. I’m asking why one team affected has a game and the other doesn’t? Our reserves are out with a game at the same time on the same day too.”
Byrne’s competitive edge has dimmed nothing with the passing of time. If anything, it has perhaps gone up a notch.
He talks regularly of wanting to leave a lasting legacy with his reign at The Crua. It has long since been secured, but the thirst remains.
“If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. When the day comes that I don’t have the appetite, it will be an easy decision. At the minute, the training’s good, the dressing room’s good and the boys are good.”
Glengad have been pushed to the pins of their collar and even near-perfect records have not been enough to make for an easy ride.
It is why the experienced voice reminds of the importance of a good start.
“Margins towards the end are always very tight,” Byrne says.
“We had a play-off one year, we had Clonmany with us another year on the last day, last season we had Aileach on the last day.
“We know ourselves that the start of the season is so important. You can’t drop too many points in this League. We lost once last year and the year before we were unbeaten – and they still were tight Leagues. If you drop too many points here, you won’t win this League.
“I would fancy us in most games. We can have a bad day at the office too, but with the quality and experience we have, we don’t fear any game.”
Jackie Crossan Premier Division, Sunday, September 2, 2pm
Culdaff v Clonmany Shamrocks
Carn FC v Aileach
Buncrana Hearts v Illies
Glengad United v RedcastleTags: