Traditionally, a new year is meant to be a new beginning and Graham McConnell is hoping it will bring some prosperity for his Larne team – and the manager is doing his utmost to ensure that will be the case as he strengthens his hand ahead of the Intermediate Cup match against Shankill United on Saturday.
Former Crusaders goalkeeper Chris Keenan has returned to Inver Park and McConnell has signed a few other local players, perhaps without the name and reputation of the former Premier League player, but with no shortage of promise or potential.
“We were facing a potential goalkeeping crisis because Nathan Morley-Hillen has to have his appendix out a fortnight ago and was thus going to be out of action for six weeks, leaving us with Darren Gibbons as the only recognised keeper at the club,” explained McConnell.
“And what better way to solve that problem than by signing Chris Keenan, a local player whom I think is one of the best goalkeepers in the whole country. I believe he will do a great job for Larne and I’m delighted to have him on board. Now it’s up to him to prove himself just how good he really is.
“I’ve signed a left-back who is ex-Wellington Rec, William Magill, and that is a position we have struggled with in the past. Hopefully, he will adequately solve that problem. It’s his first go at this level, but I have always admired him as a player and I think he should have taken the step up before now.
“Dylan Monaghan, a midfielder-cum-striker, has been at the club before but he’s only 18 and he decided early in the season to join Wellington Rec but he has returned and I believe he’s come back as an even better player than before.
“I have a few other irons in the fire as well and nearly all of the players I am interested in are guys who live locally, because I’ve said before that I want us to be a local team and my longer-term plan is to add an extra night of training per week and that is best achieved with lads who live close to the club,” explained McConnell, who was disappointed to lose Saturday’s fixture against Carrick Rangers to the weather.
“The pitch was waterlogged and that was that. The referee came from Newtownabbey and inspected the pitch and it wasn’t playable. So, now we must focus on this weekend’s Intermediate Cup clash at home to Shankill United.
“Unfortunately, we will be going into this game a wee bit blind. Raymond Alexander was on his way to watch them on Saturday, but their game against Dunmurry Rec was called off as well. But we’ll chat with local Amateur League clubs who play against them and will find out what we can.
“We do know that former Linfield and Glenavon midfielder-cum-forward Stuart King plays for them and that indicates the threat they possess, which is not surprising since they are managed by Jamie Marks and Justin McBride, both of whom won stacks of honours with the likes of Linfield and Glentoran.
“But, we will go into the match with confidence and all I can ask is that we perform to our best ability and take what comes after that – assuming the rain stays away for a few days and enables us to get back to the action, because it’s over three weeks now since we played” added McConnell, who paid tribute a former player who passed away last week.
“Byron Seymour was a great fella and a tremendous football man. An ex-player and coach with Larne Football Club, he was goalkeeping coach and assistant manager to Frankie Parks in my second spell as a goalkeeper with the hometown club. He will be sadly missed and, on behalf of the club and supporters, I would like to express sympathy with his family on a tremendous loss to us all,” stated the Larne manager.