Leroy Millar scored in Ballymena United's defeat of Barry Town United (©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)

PRE-SEASON PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY

It might still only be June but already a number of NIFL clubs are back in action as the annual round of pre-season friendlies begins in preparation for the big kick-off in August.

With this week's Europa League games in mind it is perhaps no surprise that Ballymena United and Cliftonville already have a number of games under their belt.

The Sky Blues have, so far, recorded two victories over Welsh opposition in preparation for Thursday's clash with Faroese side NSi Runavik at The Showgrounds.

David Jeffrey's side defeated Cardiff Metropolitan University courtesy of a Cathair Friel spot-kick at The Dub before, eight days later, coming from a goal down to record a 2-1 win over Barry Town United at Dixon Park with goals from Leroy Millar and Ryan Mayse.

The Welsh visitors have been paired with Cliftonville in the Europa League and the Reds warmed up for the encounter with three games in just over a week.

They began their preparations with a 2-1 defeat of Derry City at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. Thomas Maguire and Conor McMenamin found the net against the Candystripes with McMenamin again on target a few days later as five goals without reply were hit past Ards at Solitude. Rory Donnelly bagged a double with further goals coming from Jamie Harney and Ryan Curran.

Paddy McLaughlin's charges rounded off their preparations at the weekend with a visit to the Principality to face Connah's Quay Nomads in Broughton, losing to a headed finish midway through the second half.

Our other Europa League representatives, Crusaders, won't kick a ball in anger until the middle of July but started to lay the foundations on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Loughgall at Lakeview Park thanks to goals from David Cushley, Ross Clarke and Jordan Owens.

Also in action at this early stage have been newly promoted Larne, preparing for life back in the top flight with victories over Crumlin United (5-0) and Rathfriland (8-0).

Thomas Stewart, Albert Watson, Martin Donnelly and David McDaid (2) scored against Crumlin, with McDaid grabbing another couple in the win over Rathfriland. Donnelly also hit the target again, Cillin Gilmour added to the tally but the real star of the show was Lee Lynch who came off the bench to hit four in the second half.

Results so far
Friday, 14th June, 2019
Ballymena United 1-0 Cardiff Metropolitan University
Derry City 1-2 Cliftonville

Saturday, 15th June, 2019
Larne 5-0 Crumlin United

Wednesday, 19th June, 2019
Cliftonville 5-0 Ards

Saturday, 22nd June, 2019
Ballymena United 2-1 Barry Town United
Connah's Quay Nomads 1-0 Cliftonville
Loughgall 0-3 Crusaders

Monday, 24th June, 2019
Larne 8-0 Rathfriland

This week's friendlies
Wednesday, 26th June, 2019
Crusaders v. Motherwell (Seaview, 7:45pm)

Saturday, 29th June, 2019
Ballyvea v. Warrenpoint Town (Mountview Park, 2pm)
Comber Rec. v. Glentoran (2:30pm)
Crusaders v. Ards (Seaview, 3pm)
Linfield v. Motherwell (Windsor Park, 1:30pm)

Please note: Given the fluid nature of pre-season friendlies anyone planning on attending any of the games listed is strongly advised to check with either club to confirm both venue and kick-off details.