New Linfield manager Warren Feeney “can’t wait to get started” following the release of next season’s Danske Bank Premiership fixtures.
Feeney will kick-off his Blues tenure with a showdown against Portadown at Shamrock Park on August 9.
Four days later Linfield travel to derby rivals Glentoran, making it an Irish League baptism of fire for the club’s new manager.
Feeney – who was named as David Jeffrey’s successor back in April – will embark on his first competitive games in charge against B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands in the Europa League next month.
Then it will be into Premiership action on August 9 against Portadown.
“People will say it is a tough start for us, but this is a very competitive league so every game will be difficult,” Feeney said.
“There will be a lot of massive hurdles for us to clear, and it is something to look forward to.
“Portadown have made some good signings this summer, including a couple of former Linfield players. They are a decent side who will be keen to set out their stall.
“Glentoran is always a massive fixture because it is a derby. So I can’t wait to get started.”
Linfield are scheduled to play their opening seven fixtures away from home as redevelopment work continues at Windsor Park – their first home game is expected to be Warrenpoint Town on September 13.
“It will be a tough start for us, but the players will be fired up for it,” Feeney added.
“We are back in training now, and we have the European games coming up next month.
“It is all vital preparation for August 9 and the start of the league campaign.”
Meanwhile, champions Cliftonville will kick-off the defence of the Gibson Cup against Glentoran at Solitude on August 9, while Irish Cup winners Glenavon entertain Crusaders at Mourneview Park.
Also on the opening day Ballymena United host Warrenpoint Town at the Showgrounds while Coleraine are at home to Ballinamallard United.
Premiership newboys Institute travel to Stangmore Park to face Dungannon Swifts.
Ballymena United, Cliftonville, Linfield and Portadown will have home advantage in their respective traditional Boxing Day derby fixtures.
Meanwhile, Danske Bank have signed an extension to their sponsorship of the Premiership, taking their partnership into a third season.
Andrew Johnston, NI Football League Managing Director said: “To have a sponsor the calibre of Danske Bank extend their partnership with us is fantastic news for the league. Sponsors are vital for the future development of our game and Danske Bank have proven themselves to be an excellent supporter of the NI Football League.”
Nicola McCleery, Head of Marketing at Danske Bank added: Like ourselves, the Northern Ireland Football League has a long heritage in Northern Ireland and is an integral part of the local community - offering us a perfect fit. We look forward to evolving the partnership over the course of the new season.”
Opening day fixtures, August 9: Ballymena United v Warrenpoint Town; Cliftonville v Glentoran; Coleraine v Ballinamallard Utd; Dungannon Swifts v Institute; Glenavon v Crusaders; Linfield v Portadown (at Shamrock Park).