New season, new players, new managers. Friday night’s contest between Glenavon and Glentoran looks set to ignite one of the most competitive Irish League seasons in recent memory. Have a look at toalsbetblog.com‘s opening weekend predictions for the Irish League.
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Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon look set to provide a stern test to a new-look Glentoran side. The Lurgan Blues won five and drew one of their home their final five home games of last season. This run included wins against Linfield, Crusaders and Cliftonville – Glenavon scored 8 and conceded 1 goal in these games.
It may come as a shock however that Mourneview Park has been a happy hunting ground for Glentoran in recent years. One defeat in 11 games will give the Glens confidence for this season opener. Glentoran will also be boosted by a 4-2 playoff semi-final victory at the end of last season. After announcing a raft of new signings throughout the summer (including Croation Harvoje Plum and former Holland U21 international Elvio van Overbeek), the Glens will be expect to get off to a good start here.
Prediction: Glenvaon 1 – 2 Glentoran
The return of Oran Kearney to Coleraine has raised expectation around the Showgrounds. The squad however has undoubtedly regressed since Kearney’s 2018 departure. Kearney has had a full summer to reacquaint himself with the club, but the opening game may be too early to see the full berth of his influence.
Cliftonville’s success in the Europa League playoff was a major success for new boss Paddy McLoughlin. One of the primary targets for the coming season will be to address the club’s woeful away record. 12 defeats from 18, including consecutive 5-1 and 4-0 defeats against Linfield and Glenavon is a major concern for The Reds.
Prediction Coleraine 2 – 2 Cliftonville
After a heroic European campaign Crusaders look well placed to rival Linfield in the hunt for the Gibson Cup. The Crues started slowly last season. A 1-0 win against Newry before consecutive defeats against Glenavon and Dungannon raised eyebrows. Stephen Baxter (in his 15th year as Crues boss) will be ensure his side lay an early marker for the year to come. While Carrick will be eager to give a strong account for themselves, expect the Crues to have too much.
Prediction: Crusaders 4-1 Carrick
Kris Lindsay’s Dungannon outfit boasted a better home record last season than 6th placed Coleraine. After a summer which saw the acquisiton of highly rated Ards goalkeeper Sam Johnston and centre-back Dylan King (who kept 8 clean sheets last season), further development is expected.
This weekend however, David Jeffrey’s Ballymena look set to have too much for the Swifts. Jeffrey will strive to ensure last season’s runners up spot is not the ceiling for the Braidmen, and a win at Dungannon is a strong early marker. Ballymena will expect a tough challenge here but should have enough to pick up all three points.
Prediction: Dungannon Swifts 1 – 2 Ballymena
Irish Championship winning Larne begin their season at home to Warrenpoint Town. After a period of sustained investment, Larne will be desperate to hit the ground running. Veteran defender Albert Watson will provide important defensive rigidity, while forwards Martin Donnelly and David McDaid are sure to provide the firepower.
Prediction: Larne 3 – 0 Warrenpoint
Difficult to look past the champions here. Although this fixture falls between European commitment’s with FK Sutjeska of Montenegro, Linfield’s squad depth should have more than enough to win here. Manager-less Institute always looked set for a difficult start here. With little investment in the squad and the departure of Ronan Doherty and Ronan Wilson Institute look set for a tough start and a tough season.
Prediction: Linfield 3 – 0 Institute