Lurgan Celtic have taken a few batterings in their pre-season games, conceding eight last Thursday night at Crusaders, but there is method in the madness by manager Colin Malone.
“We have had a few drubbings but it shows us the distance we have to go to become what it takes to be a Premiership side,” said Malone.
“You can’t get any tougher than the Irish League champions - they are able to field two different sides. It lets the players see what level they have to get to and I have asked the players to ask themselves how many of our team would the backroom staff at the Crues want and the answer is none.
“I didn’t play any of the younger lads but I did bring them to observe and all in, I know all of the squad learned from our tough pre-season.
“I didn’t feel it would have done us any good at all playing weak sides and then going into Championship 1 thinking we are going to find it easy. There is a big difference between Championship 2 and 1 but the gulf to the Premiership is massive.
“With the league being cut again we need to embrace Championship 1 and play a brand of football that will secure our position in the Irish League.
“This year we are going to be up against teams who don’t give the ball away easy, they punish you when you make mistakes and we will not be going out and scoring freely the way we did last season.
“I have no doubt there will be times we will struggle to secure results, we are not going to take this league by storm. We don’t have too many players who have been at this level before but we will have to be at our best every week to be in with a chance to get a result.”
Promotion gives the Hoops a chance to embrace a new league, face new teams and venues. They will meet the likes of Bangor, Institute, Donegal Celtic, Larne, Ards, Ballyclare and Lisburn Distillery who at one stage have all been in the top flight.
The first match is at home to Donegal Celtic and Malone and his men would dearly love a winning start to Championship 1.