Malone to call on Celtic experience for league derby

Conor Hagan.
Conor Hagan.
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Colin Malone is confident he can call on some of his key men for the weekend derby date against Dollingstown.

The match at Celtic’s Knockrammer Park marks a first Lurgan derby in Championship history following Dollingstown’s promotion out of Mid-Ulster football.

The record books may not provide evidence of a strong history between the progressive clubs but geography alone is far from the only link.

“The players know each other quite well and, of course, Dale Malone is a former Dollingstown player,” said the Celtic boss. “Dollingstown’s impressive start to NIFL Championship Two has not come as any surprise to me.

“They have an excellent pitch and surrounding facilities, with a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work to get the club into this position.

“Gary Duke has a decent squad more than capable of getting results at this level but, in terms of Saturday, we will be looking towards home advantage and the return of some of our more experienced players to swing it.”

Celtic can welcome striker Malone back into the panel - following suspension - for a date with his former team-mates.

Conor Hagan clocked up minutes in the recent friendly date with Crusaders reserves and Ryan Henderson is expected to take his place back in the Celtic squad.

“The postponement of our Bob Radcliffe Cup tie with Loughgall last weekend left us without a competitive fixture,” said Malone. “We arranged a friendly with Crusaders reserves to give fringe players gametime and offer other players an opportunity to build up sharpness following injury or suspension.

“I should have a full panel available and certainly it was great to see Conor come through the friendly without any issues following such a lengthy calf problem.

“He has recently stepped up his training and is working hard.

“Dale will come in following suspension and Ryan’s gaelic football commitments have ended.

“Last weekend also allowed us a chance to rest up some players who had been involved every week to date.

“It will offer a big boost to the squad to have some of our big hitters back available for selection.”

Kick-off will be 3pm.