Action from Ferney Park at the start of the Danske Bank Premiership season © John McVitty / Presseye


It's back to Danske Bank Premiership action after last week's Irish Cup weekend, there's plenty of new signings looking to spark their clubs into life this Saturday.

Ballinamallard United v Glentoran (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 3pm)

There is renewed hope at Ferney Park as Gavin Dykes has boosted his squad with FIVE new faces since their last Danske Bank Premiership outing and a morale boosting win over Immaculata in the Irish Cup last Saturday. Midfielder David Kee could return to the fold after re-joining the Fermanagh club on loan from Coleraine for the remainder of the season.

Gary Haveron’s Glentoran side also were winners in the Irish Cup but will be reliant on their existing panel to regain their top six berth as they go toe-to-toe with Ballymena United for a place in the top half of the Danske Bank Premiership table. The two sides met on the opening day of the season, with Glentoran winning 2-1 at the same venue.

Ballymena United v Carrick Rangers (venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s only been four weeks since the two sides last met at the Ballymena Showgrounds and David Jeffrey can expect a much changed Carrick Rangers team. Damien McNulty and Brendan Glackin could come into a team that has suffered two defeats at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena in the last week, losing to Glenavon (Irish Cup) on Saturday and Linfield (Premiership) on Saturday.

Ballymena United have been impressive at home this season and are currently eleven games unbeaten at the Showgrounds stretching back to September, including last weekend’s comfortable win over Moyola Park in the cup. This will be a huge week at Warden Street with this crunch league game followed up by their BetMcLean League Cup semi-final against Cliftonville on Tuesday night.

Crusaders v Ards (venue: Seaview; kick-off: 3pm)

The Crusaders steam train continues to roll on relentlessly as they chalked up their 18th win in 19 games in all competitions against Maiden City last week. Nothing but a win for Stephen Baxter’s side against Ards on Saturday will suffice as they will be reluctant to lose their place at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership after working tirelessly to get back to the summit. The Crues will continue to battle on all fronts, as they remain in all five of the competitions they entered this season – including the semi-finals of the BetMcLean League Cup against Dungannon Swifts on Tuesday night.

Colin Nixon’s Ards side have also pulled together a respectable unbeaten run of their own, going five games without defeat stretching back to the start of December. They will also look for inspiration from the scoreless draw between the two sides back in September in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Dungannon Swifts v Coleraine (venue: Stangmore Park; kick-off: 3pm)

You could forgive Swifts’ boss Rodney McAree for having one eye on a potential first major final for the County Tyrone club since 2008 laying ahead on Tuesday night, but they have the tough task of a Premiership encounter with high-flying Coleraine to contend with first. Dungannon welcome new signing Mark Patton into the club, having signed from Glenavon this week.

The Bannsiders return to league action after a resounding seven goal win against Lisburn Distillery last week in the Irish Cup, and Oran Kearney will be keen to keep the pace with Crusaders having slipped behind the North Belfast side over the festive period, having led the table for the vast majority of the campaign to date.

Glenavon v Cliftonville (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s a dress rehearsal at Mourneview Park for the live game on Sky Sports at the end of this month as Glenavon take on Barry Gray’s Cliftonville. A win for either side is vitally important to keep alive both side’s lingering hopes of securing this season’s Danske Bank Premiership title.

Both sides needed extra time in their Irish Cup ties against Carrick Rangers and Warrenpoint Town, respectively. It was also the Lurgan Blues who hold the advantage in this fixture after winning 3-1 back in September with goals from Marc Griffin, Andy Hall and Andrew Mitchell. Be sure to catch up with Barry Gray’s thoughts ahead of this game on this week’s Danske Bank Premiership show with Cool FM now online.

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield (venue: Q Radio Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

David Healy’s Blues are the first visitors to the newly renamed Q Radio Arena, fresh from getting back to winning ways against Carrick Rangers in midweek with new signing Kurtis Byrne scoring the winner as his first goal for his new club since joining from St. Patrick’s Athletic. Achille Campion may also make his Premiership debut for Linfield in a transfer window that seems far from done for Healy, with news that Aaron Burns may be on the move after being advised a new contract will not be forthcoming this summer for the winger.

Warrenpoint Town took Cliftonville to extra time last week in the Irish Cup and manager Matthew Tipton’s surprise first appearance of the season from the bench was the main talking point after he was sent off shortly after his introduction last Saturday. The two sides back in December with the Point earning a memorable 3-3 draw at Windsor Park but are currently without a win in nine games.