Sports

Play-off place is the target for Dergview

Thursday, 29 June 2017

DERGVIEW manager, Richard Clarke, is targeting a play-off place in this season's NIFL Championship.

The boss was speaking to the Tyrone Constitution after the release of the league's fixtures, which pitted Dergview against Institute on the first game of the season, on Saturday, August 12.

"Playing at home to Institute on the first game of the season certainly makes things interesting," he said.

"I'm always keen to start with a home match, and that's what we've got, so we're happy. The players will be hugely motivated for it."

While Clarke is determined to improve on last season's fifth-place finish, he is fully aware the league will be much more competitive this time around. Relegated Portadown, where Clarke played for 17 years, are firm favourites to win the league, while newly promoted Limavady and Newry will prove difficult fixtures.

"There are no easy matches this season," Clarke continued. "Normally you can look at fixture list and target points, but it's difficult this time. The league has really strengthened.

"We will work hard to target a play-off place, but the first priority is to finish in the top six before the league splits."

Focusing on Portadown, who Dergview host on September 16, Clarke said: "I spent many years at Portadown, and while I'm disappointed to see them in the Championship, it's good for the league. I'll certainly want to get one over on them!"

Meanwhile, Ballinamallard United manager, Gavin Dykes, said he is "delighted" his side will kick-off at home. Glentoran are the visitors to Ferney Park on the opening day of the Danske Bank Premiership on August 12. It is the first of three games in a week with the 'Mallards travelling to Glenavon on August 15, before hosting Cliftonville on August 19.

"Obviously it is good to have a home game up first, though it's a tricky game," said Dykes. "We struggled to cope with so many games at the start of last season, so we hope to get off to a better start this time around. It's going to be difficult, but we're all looking forward to the challenge.

"We want to improve on last season's ninth-place finish last season, though it won't be easy.

"Playing in the Premiership is a terrific achievement, but it's going to be harder to stay in the league this term than it was last season. Warrenpoint Town have strengthened while Carrick have a new manager. But I'm confident we have the quality to stay up, and have no doubt we will."

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