THE home games are coming thick and fast at the minute and we prepare for another one tomorrow. After the visit of Glasgow Rangers, Carrick Rangers come to Inver Park for another importantChampionship encounter.As we have found out all season, league points are hard earned and we know whatever weget against my good friend Niall Currie’s side will be just that. It’s the third East Antrim derby of the season, and the rivalry ensures no quarter will be asked for or given. Today is the return to our bread and butter and the points are significant.We come into the match on the back of a wonderful occasion and fantastic match on Wednesday evening, to mark the completion of the first stage of work at Inver Park. We were delighted to see 2,086 fans there and it made for a superb spectacle and atmosphere. The contingent who traveled from Rangers were all complimentary of how things are developing on and off the pitch. We faced a young Rangers side who handled themselves very well before, during and after the match.I thought our own lads equipped themselves extremely well against a very good young Rangers team. It was pleasing to see a number of teenagers take to the field for ourselves, and it is testament to the quality coming through as well as Tiernan and the coaching staff, as to how they’re trying to integrate them and give youth a chance. Iain Dowie and Mick Quinn, who were both guests of Kenny Bruce on the night, said it was clear that we have an identity in our play – and those two know their football!I would personally like to thank all those who made the night such a success, from the board members, to those who volunteered from Larne Youth, those who helped steward, sell programmes and everything in between – your contribution made the night possible.As well as cutting the ribbon of the ground, there was also the official opening of the Agnew Lounge for VIP members and players. This was opened by Mrs Anne Barlow, Kenny Bruce’s mother, and named in honour of her ownparents. It was a very special occasion.Finally, let me thank our sponsors for tomorrow’s match. We are looking forward to welcoming the Latharna Club as Match Sponsor, Ball sponsor, Yes Chef Magazine and thanks as always to ourseason long sponsors The Curran Court Hotel and Classic Drinks. We are forever grateful for the support of our sponsors.
Having worked diligently with the local authority we have managed to get our safe capacity up to just over 2200, not bad when you consider twelve months ago we were curtailed to 400.
We make the journey to the Limavady Showgrounds tomorrow buoyed by last week’s impressive victory at Dixon Park.
As ever, we know we face a stern examination from Sean Friars’ team, who have had some impressive results of their own this season.
The derby victory away to Ballyclare Comrades last week featured a fantastic hat-trick from Marty Donnelly, and we also saw Thomas Stewart, David McDaid and Darren Stuart all come off the bench to make a big contribution. This is exactly what we need, players making big contributions whether they start or come on during the match, if we are to be successful this season.
There was a tremendous atmosphere created in the away end last week and more of the same at the Limavady Showgrounds would be a huge boost to Tiernan and the boys.
There is just one note of caution we need to sound though – please leave the flares at home. We don’t need the fine that will come our way, or have points deducted, if this continues. I know no harm is intended, but it is a health and safety issue when lit at matches and would pose a serious risk for our pitch. We all have a responsibility on this journey we’re on and I would ask fans to heed this and leave the flares at home once and for all.
It has been another busy period at Inver Park this week. Many will have seen the floodlights on for the first time, after being commissioned at the start of the week. Larne Youth coaches were at Inver on Wednesday night for the Coerver coaching workshop, with senior Larne players taking coaching at Larne Youth in their place. I know for a fact the boys loved this.
On Monday of next week, we have a Health & Safety inspection at Inver Park, after which we hope to be in a position to announce another allocation of tickets for the Rangers XI fixture. If this is the case, shop opening times for tickets and merchandise will be announced on Monday afternoon.
Finally, let me add my own condolences to Clare Drummond, an integral part of our Working Committee, on the passing of her sister Fay. Clare and her family circle are in our thoughts at this time.