Linfield begin the new season in the Sports Direct NIFL Premiership, when travelling west to face Dungannon Swifts FC at Stangmore Park (3pm ko). Last season the Blues won all of the three league games played between the two teams.
Dungannon kicked off their own league campaign in the NIFL Monday night Sky fixture, with an unbelievable drama laden 4-4 draw with reigning champions Larne at Inver Park. With 13 minutes left on the clock, the Swifts were seemingly heading towards a comprehensive 4-1 defeat, before they sensationally scored three times to level the game in a Lazarus like comeback. It was certainly a night to remember for new Swifts manager Rodney McAree and ample reward for those loyal supporters who had made the 127-mile round trip. Sometimes you just couldn't write the script for Irish league games!
One of the major talking points in local football circles this summer has undoubtedly been Dungannon's appointment of McAree, following his shock resignation from Glentoran. After an absence of five years, he now begins a second tenure in charge of his boyhood club, having added to his managerial skill set with time served in the Coleraine and Glentoran hot seats. Although the Swifts have made significant strides both on and off the pitch in recent seasons, preservation of their Premiership status will still remain the main focus at the club.
Recruitment during the transfer window has seen the arrival of some astute and experienced signings in the form of goalkeeper Conor Mitchell (Warrenpoint) and defender Chris Hegarty (Crusaders). Enhanced firepower has been added with the loan signings of Matt Lusty and Linfield's Ethan Devine, who will be ineligible to face his parent club.
Linfield head into the new season determined to bring the Gibson Cup back to Windsor Park. Some harsh lessons will have been taken onboard from last season's title challenge, which faltered after valuable points were dropped in games against top six opposition…