BALLYMENA UNITED: Skipper Jim Ervin predicting a thrilling battle for the Gibson Cup

Ballymena United captain Jim Ervin.  Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Ballymena United captain Jim Ervin. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

This year’s Danske Bank Premiership campaign looks like being the most competitive season in local football for a number of years.

Reigning champions Linfield will no doubt start as favourites to retain the Gibson Cup.

But a number of teams will be out to push them all the way.

Last year’s runners-up, Ballymena United, are one of them and they will be hoping to kick on again this term.

Skipper Jim Ervin though knows knows how stiff the competition will be this season, but he is relishing the battle.

“There’s no doubt based on how things have gone in the league over the last few season Linfield and Crusaders will rightly be tipped to go on and win it,” said Ervin.

“But for me this season will be really hard to call as we have so many good teams all capable of going and getting results.

“Cliftonville will be out to push on again and have strengthened in the summer.

“Glentoran will be stronger as well given the investment in the club.

“Coleraine will be back in the mix given the boost with Oran Kearney coming back.

“Larne are determined to make a big impression and had signed really well.

“Glenavon have a good squad and are always there or there abouts.

“And then there’s ourselves, we want to build on what we achieved last time out.

“Everyone of those teams will be targeting success and at least a place in the top four, which they are more than capable of doing.

“But as far as picking who gets there in the end, you can’t, it’s totally unpredictable. in my opinion.

“It’s great to see though, the local game is in as healthy a state as I can remember.

“Attendances are up and there seems to be a real buzz about the game here again.

“Add into that the live games on BBC and it has all helped add to it.”

Ballymena have certainly played there part in raising the profile of the local game as they were one of four clubs to win through a round in Europe.

“It’s fantastic for the league to see teams winning on the European stage,” Said Ervin.

“I know how hard teams work to get into Europe and the sacrifices they make coming back early to prepare for it, so it’s great to see teams getting the rewards and progressing.

“It was great to see ourselves, Cliftonville and Crusaders get through, and obviously Linfield are still there flying the flag for Northern Ireland, hopefully they can win again next week and get through another round.”

Ervin has challenged his team-mates to carry on the momentum from last year and their experiences over the summer into this new campaign.

“Yeah the important this for us is to harness what we achieved and build on it,” said the Sky Blues skipper.

“Perhaps we played above ourselves last season, but that has shown what we are capable of.

“With is comes expectation though and we have to try and match that.

“The important thing is we keep working hard and putting it in on the pitch.

“We’re all busting to get the season started now and hopefully get off to a winning start, but it won’t be easy against a Dungannon side who will be fired up I’m sure.”