Newly-promoted Carrick Rangers face a baptism of fire in the opening few weeks of the Premiership season.
They may have swept the board with an historic trophy treble in the second tier, but any lingering delusions of grandeur will have been well and truly snuffed out ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Dungannon Swifts.
The slate will have been wiped clean and last year’s heroics – which included the Championship 1 title, Steel Cup and Intermediate Cup – consigned to the annals.
Tomorrow’s jaunt to Stangmore bears all the hallmarks of an awkward opening day encounter but it’s a game Carrick must get something from with Linfield, Glentoran and Cliftonville following in quick succession. August is going to be anything but easy for Gary Haveron’s team.
But that same gritty, never-say-die approach which propelled them to league success last term, may just help them spring a few surprises.
The club has been busy on the transfer front adding experienced Cliftonville midfielder Barry Johnston (Cliftonville) to its ranks, while Mark Miskimmin, Gary Browne and Joe McNeill arrived from Coleraine.
Also signed up is ex-Ballymena United man Mark Surgenor, Ballyclare’s Andrew Doyle and former Crusaders stopper Chris Keenan.
Skipper Aaron Harmon was a fledgling talent in the last Carrick squad to win promotion under Stephen Small in 2011. Four years on, he’s older, wiser and a more game-savvy, but he’s under no illusions about the task in hand.
“Our basic aim is to stay up,” he admitted. “We’ve seen over the last few seasons that any team who goes up realises that it’s a big step and the majority have struggled. If we can keep our place in the Premiership that would be an achievement and then we can keep building on that.
“We’re confident. Pre-season goes out the window, it’s just about getting a bit of fitness under the belt but when it all kicks off on Saturday I’m sure we will be ready. We are just going to take one game at a time, the same as we did last year. We’ll do our best and hopefully we can keep picking up points.
“After winning the treble the belief in our ability is still there. It doesn’t just go away over the course of a few weeks.
“We know how important it is to get off to a good start against Dungannon because then we have the Blues at home, the Glens at home and then away to Cliftonville.”