New Larne captain Ryan Berry is champing at the bit to get down to the business of competitive football ahead of Larne’s Championship 1 opening-day encounter with his old club Ards.
The ex-Glentoran midfielder has settled in well at Inver Park and despite some disappointing results in pre-season, he believes Tommy Kincaid’s men are on the right track.
Berry will lead Larne out against Niall Currie’s side at Clandeboye Park on Saturday and the 23-year-old is relishing the prospect of going head-to-head with his former team-mates.
“I’m really itching to get going to be honest,” he said. “Like most players, I’m not a big fan of pre-season so the competitive stuff can’t come soon enough.
“I think the fact that our first game is away to my old club Ards makes it even better for me as it’s always nice to go back to a club with a bit of point to prove.
“Some of the lads have been commenting that we’ve got a tough opening schedule but that’s the League we are in and there’s not a lot between most teams so I think no matter who we got, it was always going to be a big test. It’s nice to get points on the board early so we will be doing our utmost to make sure we can get off to a strong start. However, at the same time, it’s a long season and there’s a lot of football to be played, so, no matter what happens, we will not be getting carried away.”
Rosario aside, Larne may not have produced the results they would have hoped for in their recent friendlies but Berry isn’t too concerned.
“It’s always good to get games against tougher opposition as it tests the players and gives us a realistic chance to see how we are progressing,” he explained. “We could play meaningless games against lesser opposition and win comfortably but it doesn’t really give an indication of where we are at. I think we have to be disappointed by some of the results and especially with some of the goals we have given away, but, there have been encouraging signs in terms of how we are trying to play. As long as we can learn from our mistakes and move forward, I’m confident we will be in good shape for the start of the League against Ards.
“Tommy has a lot of experience which I think is important and has had a previous spell at Larne so he knows the club and its expectations. It’s never easy to lose a number of key players from last year’s squad and bring in a lot of new players, but, I think the process has been managed very well and everyone is really starting to pull together.”
Berry has first-hand experience of just how tough the Championship is, but he remains upbeat about Larne’s chances of doing well in the League.
“There’s not a great deal between most of the teams in terms of ability,” he said “On any given day, every team can take points off everyone so it’s really down to who can perform on a consistent basis and, in many cases, who wants it that bit more.
“I’m optimistic about our chances this year which is natural and feel that we have a number of high-quality players who can do really well for us. “It’s always nice to progress in Cup competitions, but, for me, I think the League has to be our main priority.
“The boss wants to build and get Larne back into the Premier League so I think we need to have aspirations to be up around the top clubs. Whether or not we can gain promotion this season, time will tell but we have to be positive and push ourselves as much as we can and not be content sitting in mid-table with nothing to play for. All the players are desperate to do well and I can ensure everyone connected with the club that we will be giving our all in order to bring success.”
For Berry, one of the key players who can help them achieve big things this year is striker Paul Maguire.
“He will have a massive role to play as he is a proven goalscorer and with the way that we are going to play, I think he can chip in with important goals for us.
“Having seen him in pre-season, he is looking dangerous and his movement is excellent so it will be up to the rest of us to create the chances for him.”
Report by John Gillespie | Twitter: @Times_Sport