Greg Thompson is counting on increased squad depth to provide the key to consistency for a Waringstown challenge on multiple fronts.
Premier League frustration in recent seasons has arrived, in the view of the club captain, due to stretched resources across an intensive fixture list.
It is a problem for which he hopes youth can provide a solution entering this weekend’s opening test.
“Given the history of Waringstown there is an expectancy and responsibility to challenge for silverware and that is something this squad is hungry to maintain,” said Thompson. “But the reality is in the past we have found the options limited at key points of the season, especially when you get to a point where the squad is having to face games across a series of competitions and maybe the weather or shortage of numbers causing problems.
“However, we may not have added big numbers from outside the club but feel confident there are players from within capable of stepping up when called to gain experience and weigh in.
“As a group we are busting to get out and start the season, having had a positive winter period with a lot of hard work put in by everyone.
“Our schedule, probably more than anyone else, has been pretty packed in recent seasons and it has called for a massive effort by a relatively small panel of players.
“We now have younger faces coming up and pushing the older hands so this season we feel they can come in and changes will not weaken our strength.
“The Premier League is a competitive division, with three or four sides expected to challenge for the title but those fighting for survival also dangerous and on any given matchday it is a test.
“Expectations are high at this club but my outlook as captain will be to try and win every game and that is a view shared across the club.
“With that as a starting point we can go into the season aiming to be competitive and, crucially, enjoy our cricket.”
Shaheen Khan has returned to the club as the 2017 overseas player, having enjoyed a successful period in his previous spell at Waringstown.
Lurgan chairman Denis Johnston is calling for cup commitments to prove a perfect building block towards league progress.
The Section One outfit host Academy on Saturday in the Challenge Cup preliminary round ahead of a start to the league programme next Monday at home to Holywood.
Johnston’s hope is that the high stakes of a knockout test should help sharpen Lurgan’s competitive edge leading into league play.
“That would be ideal, even if the league situation is our priority,” he said. “A strong cup run would be great, of course, but the league programme stands as the main objective.
“We have made a few additions for this season so that is encouraging in terms of adding to the roster.
“If we want to aim higher as a club then a strong start can be crucial.
“The opportunity to really hit the ground running and build up some momentum towards putting wins on the board could offer a significant lift.
“The alternative is to end up on the backfoot and, once the poor weather starts to disrupt the schedule, it can be hard to claw back lost ground.
“But we stand optimistic about the season and feel we have some positive additions to the current players that leave us strong in terms of scoring runs and our bowling options.
“A lot of hard work has gone into preparations for the season so everyone is now looking forward to the start of the campaign.
“Richard Clarke will step into the role of firsts’ captain for the first time this season but has been on the club books since his days as a schoolboy player.
“We are looking forward to having Richard in the role.
“Overall, another key area for the club is the development of youth and that continues to be something everyone is passionate about working towards on a long-term basis.
“After all, that next generation of players will form the future of the club overall and everyone remains determined.”
Donaghcloney Mill will continue to make history this weekend with a first fixture in Section One.
A close-season merger between Donaghcloney and Millpark has sparked a winter of hard work behind the scenes and across practice to prepare for the forthcoming inaugural campaign under the fresh framework.
This week signalled a landmark on two fronts as Donaghcloney Mill’s first competitive appearance featured a debut display by the club’s girls.
The club will continue to take forward steps with a scheduled Senior One game at home to Woodvale on Saturday.
“The merger has gone so well,” said Donaghcloney Mill chairman Keith Ogle. “Everyone has been working well and everything has been amicable.
“The roster is certainly stronger in terms of players and there has been a real enthusiasm coming into the new season.
“One benefit will be increased playing time at Millpark’s ground, with a rise in fixtures from last season’s tally of, I think, six to hopes for 16 this campaign.
“The goal is to have the thirds or fourths out every Saturday at Millpark and utilise all resources to progress the club.
“The girls’ competitive debut was a real boost and so encouraging to see, as well as making a little bit of club and cricket history.
“Now we want to continue that across all fronts and there is a real sense of optimism for the season ahead and beyond.
“You can see the commitment put in by everyone and how hard everyone is working together to get the club ready on all fronts.
“We should be much stronger on the field of play as a club and there is competition for places thanks to the merger.
“The response to the merger has been encouraging by members of both former clubs into the new joint club.
“Now, after working so hard away from the game, we are relishing the season.”
Victoria chairman Matthew Parks is hoping a fresh approach to youth focus can yield long-term results.
Hard work away from the indoor nets has helped to put in place foundations with a number of primary school pupils that could provide Victoria with increased players down the line.
The commitment to long-term gains has been made by Parks and the club in recognition of existing ties within a cricket market effectively saturated.
“It is about trying something different as obviously so many clubs in this region are competing for young players and trying to target that next generation,” said Parks. “We opted to go about it in a bit of a different way, by putting the focus on schools maybe without that traditional cricket link.
“We have put in time building connections to schools around Lurgan and beyond that may not have long-term links to the sport.
“It has been rewarding and it started with a fun day then continued with after-school sessions.
“That pathway is vital to the future of the club and we want to build from the bottom up.”