PREVIEW: DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP MATCHDAY 1

The Danske Bank Premiership season is here again and we start with some fantastic games including champions Crusaders hosting Ballymena Utd at Seaview.

The Crues are aiming to join Linfield and Belfast Celtic in becoming only the third team to win the Irish league title three times in a row.  They welcome David Jeffrey's Ballymena Utd to Seaview for their season opener and manager Stephen Baxter will want to get his campaign off to a better start than one year ago when his side lost to Portadown on Day 1.    However Ballymena United under David Jeffrey showed in the latter part of last season that they are a match for anyone and held the Crues to a scoreless draw at Seaview in March.

Ballinamallard Utd secured their Danske Bank Premiership status with a last minute strike in their play-off to beat Institute on aggregate and their reward is a home game at Ferney Park against David Healy's Linfield for their season opener.  The Premiership welcomes a new face into the home dugout as Gavin Dykes takes charge of the Mallards after long term manager Whitey Anderson stepped down at the end of the last season. Dykes, a former Derry City manager, comes into the job following a successful spell as Head of Youth Development at Sligo Rovers.  Linfield have added experience to their squad with Northern Ireland internationals Roy Carroll, Sammy Clingan, Josh Carson and Chris Casement coming in as they look to improve on last season's second placed finish.

Newly promoted Ards secured top flight football on the last day of the season in April and face Cliftonville at the Bangor Fuels Arena. Niall Currie's men showed that they are more than capable of competing at this level during their run to the League Cup Final when they defeated Coleraine and Ballinamallard on the way. It was Cliftonville who beat them in that Final and Gerard Lyttle's team will once again be looking to get the win once again. The Reds have had a tremendous pre-season making it into Round two of the Europa League and have added 6'8" keeper Jason Mooney to their ranks as well as the experienced Ruairi Harkin from Coleraine.

Glentoran certainly made the headlines this summer when they secured the signature of Nacho Novo. Fans will be hoping to see the Spaniard make his competitive debut at the Oval when Dungannon Swifts arrive for Matchday 1.  The ex-Rangers striker was a fan's favourite in Glasgow and beyond and supporters of Alan Kernaghan's side will be hoping he can provide more of the same for the East Belfast club.  Dungannon Swifts welcome Seanan Clucas to the squad after a move from Derry City, and manager Rodney McAree hopes the ex-Linfield and Bristol Rovers man will strengthen his midfield as he aims to lead his side to a top six finish.

Glenavon have opted for experience in the transfer market this summer with Guy Bates returning for his second spell at the club. However all eyes will be on Northern Ireland winger Paddy McCourt  who will surely put bums on seats around the league.  Gary Hamiliton's team lifted the Charity Shield last Saturday with a win over the Crues and he will want to improve on their third placed finish last season.  They welcome Carrick Rangers to Mourneview Park with ex-Portadown assistant manager now in the Carrick hot seat.  Miguel Chines' overhead kick winner in the last minute of the last game of the season secured Carrick's place in the Danske Bank Premiership this season.

Danske Bank Premiership - Saturday 6 August, 3pm

Ards  v  Cliftonville

Ballinamallard Utd  v  Linfield

Crusaders  v  Ballymena Utd

Glenavon  v  Carrick Rangers

Glentoran  v  Dungannon Swifts