Cockhill Celtic's quest for an amazing SEVENTH Ulster Senior League title on the trot begins this Sunday - and boss Gavin Cullen says his side are ready to do battle.
Fierce rivals Letterkenny Rovers, having taken the champions to a playoff last season, have strengthened considerably in a bid to go one step further, while Bonagee have also signalled their intentions by signing a number of big name players.
But the fact that other sides are gunning for them is not fazing the unflappable Cullen, who says he welcomes the challenge with open arms. He said: “It’s something we have to deal with every season. We’re setting the standard and naturally there are teams there who want to knock us off our perch.
“Letterkenny have invested very heavily in their squad this year, and although that doesn’t worry me it will naturally make it more difficult for us to win the league.
“Bonagee have also made a few good signings, and if you throw Derry City into the mix then it should make for a very interesting league.”
Cockhill have rung a few changes themselves over the summer, with youth being the order of the day in the recruitment of teenagers Bart Wesolowski (pictured above) and Denim McLaughlin.
The pair have already been handed starts in the league cup group stages, and Cullen says an injection of fresh blood is just what the squad needs.
“It’s good to bring in young players,” he said. “They bring an energy to training and a bit more enthusiasm about the place.
“Bart is still only young and there’s work to be done, but he has a lot of potential and his attitude in training has been excellent. He has justified his inclusion in the squad and in a year or two I think we will really see the player that’s in there come out.”
The backroom side of things has also been bolstered by the return to the fold of Donal O’Brien, the trailblazing former boss who Cullen succeeded as manager. Both have strong personalities, but Cullen says he has no worries that O’Brien’s presence will be a case of ‘too many cooks’.
He said: “From the minute I took over as manager it has always been a collaborative effort and that hasn’t changed.
“Myself, Shane Galvin, Derek Shivey, Cahir McLaughlin and now Donal will all do certain elements of the job, and that input will benefit everybody.
“Donal and myself work well together, and if there is a difference of opinion at times I am all for that - it doesn’t help a side if everyone’s agreeing with you the whole time.”
Cockhill begin their title bid with a trip away to Swilly Rovers on Sunday, and Cullen insists it’s anything but an easy start for the champions.
“They have a new manager and have one of the best players in the league in Tony McNamee, and by all accounts they played well in their league cup games.
“We’ve beaten them a lot at home but it’s always a different story up there - we expect it to be tight enough.”
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