Irish League kick-off: Quiet summer for Portadown but Ronnie McFall remains upbeat

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall hopes familiarity breeds success at Shamrock Park
Portadown manager Ronnie McFall hopes familiarity breeds success at Shamrock Park

Financial restrictions may have limited Portadown’s ability to operate in the summer transfer market but manager Ronnie McFall maintains his faith in the familiar.

Mark Carson’s arrival from Loughgall on amateur terms marks the sole signing at Shamrock Park but the experienced boss remains optimistic for a strong Irish League campaign.

Last summer featured Mark McAllister, Robert Garrett and Michael Gault each making a move from Linfield to Portadown. Ken Oman then wrapped up a cross-border transfer from the Republic of Ireland in February.

Those players now have experience of life inside the Portadown dressing room and McFall is aiming to use that familiarity to hit the ground running.

Portadown visit Crusaders, the defending champions, on Saturday for the opening fixture of the Danske Bank Premiership. The first home test will come next Wednesday against Warrenpoint Town.

“I have no idea what my record is like in terms of opening day wins but know the value of a good start and we will be visiting Crusaders aiming to win,” said McFall. “We then have Warrenpoint Town at home next Wednesday and it is about trying to build up some momentum.

“It is a long season, with the league a marathon.

“However, the goal is to always win your home games and if you can also pick up something away that is a boost.

“The players that came on board for last season now have a full campaign at the club so that will help everyone.”

The club’s refusal to sanction a transfer request by Darren Murray dominated the early part of the transfer window but the striker finished with six goals in as many friendly appearances – suggesting he will remain a key figure.

Ports fans can point to fixtures last season against Crusaders and Warrenpoint Town as significant moments in a campaign which promised much but ended outside the European qualification positions and with Irish Cup final disappointment. Portadown lost by 6-0 at Seaview and suffered a 2-1 defeat at Warrenpoint that disrupted the league momentum - but McFall is confident the squad can learn from any mistakes.

“It can never come down to just two games and the aim is always to approach the turn of the year in with a chance of doing something in the league,” said McFall. “The progress of the young players has been a real plus, especially over pre-season.

“The circumstances mean they will get more opportunities than ever and that is a positive from the firsts down.

“Everyone has worked really hard in the summer, with the players responding well to Scott Paulin’s arrival as fitness coach.

“You cannot legislate for injuries but we are all aware the disciplinary record must improve.”