New Waringstown captain Lee Nelson believes the villagers are even better equipped to contend for trophies this season.
The 2013 joint Premier League winners and Challenge Cup holders are once again highly fancied after a winter in which they signed precocious Lurgan teenager James McCollum, South African professional Shaheen Khan and appointed a coach in Simon Johnston.
Nelson has taken over the captaincy from Kyle McCallan and is confident he can lead the club to more silverware.
They start the season against newly-promoted Muckamore at The Lawn on Saturday.
Nelson said: “We won virtually all the harder games last season, but we lost to what people might call some of the lesser fancied teams. There were a few tight situations that we came out of the wrong side of and that was disappointing. Unavailability hampered us but I think we are stronger now. James McCollum coming in and with the younger lads a year older it just gives us that bit more depth. It should stand us in better stead.”
Nelson once again expects an unpredictable season.
“CI have strengthened quite well, the pro that they have brought in looks a good player. I think the league is quite strong in comparison with previous years. Anyone can beat anyone, we lost four games last year and still got a share of it and you could see something similar this year. Look at Lisburn, they can beat anyone on their day, and Ballymena at home can beat anyone on their day.”
Khan is an experienced cricketer with Western Province and Cape Cobras and Nelson expects him to form a potent new-ball partnership with Phil Eaglestone.
“I think Shaheen is ideal in terms of what we needed,” he added. “Obus (Pienaar) does not bowl that much back home in South Africa but still did a good job for us last season, but Shaheen bowls for the Cape Cobras in franchise cricket and opens the bowling for Western Province.
“With Shaheen opening with Phil Eaglestone if we can get teams three or four wickets down before the spinners come on I would hope that not too many teams will score that heavily against us. Shaheen also scores quickly with the bat, we have plenty of players who like to hit the ball around for ones and twos, but Shaheen will clear the ropes.”
Waringstown warmed up for the new campaign with a tour to Bath last weekend.
They beat Landsdown on the Saturday with James Hall making a fine half-century. Rain washed out two planned Twenty20 fixtures on the Sunday.