Darren Murphy hoping Dungannon Swifts can raise the bar in Premiership

Darren Murphy
Darren Murphy

Survival has long been the main pre-season priority at Dungannon Swifts, but Darren Murphy is daring to set the bar a little higher this time.

Every year the Co Tyrone side are tipped to struggle, and every year they have defied the odds.

And as they prepare to kick off their 12th successive campaign in the top fight, Murphy is aiming for an improvement on last term’s eighth place finish.

“You always look to progress and ideally it would be great to finish a bit higher up the table,” the Dungannon manager said.

“If we could get up to seventh it would be an exceptional season for a club like ourselves, but we recognise it is going to be very difficult.

“The teams around us have all strengthened but it gives us something to focus on, rather than just settling for avoiding relegation.”

On paper at least, Dungannon’s start to the season looks relatively straightforward. After opening against Institute, they face Ballinamallard, Glenavon and Ballymena.

A good start will be vital, as will improving on last season’s poor record at Stangmore Park – just 18 of their 44 points came in home games.

“Our home form was good at the start of the season, but after Christmas it took a dip,” added Murphy.

“We did very well in away games, and if we can maintain that and improve our results at home then we could have a very good season.”

Dungannon have been in tremendous form in pre-season, posting 10 wins in as many games and scoring an astonishing 57 goals.

Twenty of those have been scored by Gary Liggett, arguably the player to watch at Dungannon this season.

However, Murphy isn’t getting too carried away by pre-season results.

“Our pre-season has been good and has gone according to plan, but I don’t read too much into it,” he added.

“It has been nice to score some goals, but ultimately it is about getting players prepared and ready for the start of the season.”

The summer has also brought the usual flurry of transfer activity.

So far Murphy has added five players, the latest arrivals being Josh Barton and Abby Sanusi, who have both signed after impressing on trial.

They follow the earlier signings of Andy Coleman, David Armstrong and Andrew Mitchell.

Murphy said that is likely to be it as far as new faces are concerned.

“I haven’t anything else planned, I think we’ve done what we wanted to do,” he added.

“We got the players we wanted in quite early and that has helped, because they have had a full pre-season with us.”

Several players have departed, including Adam McMinn, Gareth Buchanan and Ricky Copeland. Johnny Topley has retired.