If the usual pre-season friendlies or the Charity Shield didn’t tickle your fancy in Northern Ireland on Saturday then there was some other competitive football available as the League Cup first round was played, and when the draw took place at the beginning of July the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) were pleased to announce Bet McLean.com as the competitions sponsors for the next three seasons.
I say the first round took place but this stage of the competition is almost a preliminary round as the 12 Premiership teams and the top four teams from The Championship last season don’t enter the competition until round two and of the twenty teams whose names went into the hat for the first round draw twelve of them received leaving a grand total of four League Cup ties on Saturday.
Sport & Leisure Swifts 0 v Lurgan Celtic 1
Sport & Leisure welcome Lurgan Celtic to Glen Road Heights and will be looking for an improvement on last season were they spent much of their time at the foot of the table, eventually securing Premier Intermediate League (PIL) survival on the last game of the season. Lurgan Celtic had a new face in the dugout in the shape of their new Player/Head Coach Brendan Shannon. A Sean Devlin goal midway through the second half was enough for the Championship side to secure the win. The game was marred by a nasty injury to Lurgan Celtic player Josh Barton and we all wish Josh a speedy recovery!!!
Dergview 4 v Annagh United 0
Annagh caused one of the upsets of the competition last season when they knocked Premiership side Glentoran out in the second round, that was to be one of the few highlights in what quickly became a season to forget for Annagh as the finished rock bottom of The Championship and were relegated to the PIL. In the end, Saturday was fairly comfortable for Dergview thanks to goals from Dale Maxwell, Robbie Godfrey and a Ryan Campbell brace.
H&W Welders 3 v Armagh City 0
The Welders got their season off to a strong start at Tillysburn Park against Armagh, the other team who were relegated from The Championship last season. Welders fans will have been pleased to see two of their new signings combine to open the scoring when Ross Arthurs crossed for Leon Bonnes to convert from inside the six yard box, David Graham scored the second just a few minutes after half time before Arthurs added a goal on his debut to his earlier assist to wrap up the win for the Welders.
Portstewart 2 v Limavady United 3
Portstewart marked their return to life in the Irish League after a seasons absence with a derby match against last season’s PIL champions Limavady. All five goals came in the second half of the game with one of last season’s key strikers Robbie Hume given Limavady the lead just a minute after the restart. Johnny Stewart pulled the Seahawks level but Limavady scored twice more thanks to goals from Declan McKeever but Hume scored his second and United’s third, Luke McDowell made it a nervy last couple of minutes for United but it wasn’t enough to force extra time.
So the first round ended without any upsets with the Championship teams all coming out on top against their PIL opponents. On Saturday evening the draw for the 2nd round took place with the Premiership and the remaining Championship and PIL teams all in the hat. The full draw is a follows; Ards v Queen’s University, Ballinamallard United v Tobermore United, Ballymena United v Knockbreda, Carrick Rangers v. Dergview, Cliftonville v Banbridge Town, Crusaders v Dundela, Glenavon v Donegal Celtic, Institute v Moyola Park, Larne v Coleraine, Limavady United v PSNI, Linfield v Lisburn Distillery, Loughgall v Glentoran, Newington v Ballyclare Comrades, Newry City v Dungannon Swifts Portadown v. H&W Welders and Warrenpoint Town v Lurg