Larne manager Davy McAlinden admits the loss of goalkeeper John Connolly is a bit of a hammer-blow, not least because he had happily signed up again for the new season and the bad news was a bolt from the blue.
“As with the rest of the squad, I had been pleased to get him on board again and, while I appreciate his situation, the fact is that it is very disappointing that he has left the club because he is a tremendous goalkeeper,” he told the Times.
“For family reasons, John feels he can no longer commute between Newry and Larne and we have to understand and and respect that.
“I have known him for quite a while and we had a good relationship as players in my Solitude days and it’s chiefly because of our Cliftonville connection that he came to Inver Park.
“He did very well for us last year and I’m obviously sad to see him depart, but that’s how life is in football. He broke the news to me during the week and he has indicated that he will be signing for Armagh City.
“As an amateur registration, there is nothing we could do, even if we wanted to, except bite the bullet. It will take us a while to get an adequate replacement but we have a few options in mind and we will address the situation in due course,” added the manager, who is, perhaps surprisingly, delighted with the fixtures for the new season.
Most folk would surely think a trip to Castlederg is not an appetising start, but McAlinden has put a positive spin on the opening tie and there’s some unquestionable logic in his reason for doing so.
“We are getting to go there when the pitch is close to perfect on a summer Saturday, with everybody looking forward to getting into the action once more. Just compare that to our last trip up when players had to get off work early for a dirty, wet Tuesday night fixture when the surface was mucky.
“After that we are home to Knockbreda and then two more tough away games, against Lisburn Distillery and Institute, others we will be glad to get behind us nice and early in the campaign.
“That will lead us into a really big clash with title favourites Bangor and most supporters will already be pencilling in that game at Inver Park as one match not to be missed.
“But, look, you have to play all the teams home and away and it’s out of our hands when or in what order the fixtures take place, so we will just get on with it,” added a pragmatic McAlinden, who is now concentrating on pre-season training.
n Full guide to Larne’s Championship 1 fixtures for the 2015-16 season on page 69.