Loughgall boss Dean Smith is putting his faith in strength in numbers towards squad consistency.
A summer recruitment strategy designed off the disappointment of last season’s erratic form could prove key to a successful Championship campaign for the Villagers.
“At times last year we were light so squad depth was something we wanted to improve coming into this season,” said Smith. “We want to re-evaluate and learn from the past.
“Quality options allow you to keep players fresh and manage the squad.
“You need the depth and quality to handle players being absent and still go up against any team and produce.
“Too many times in the past we have suffered with players missing.
“That’s an important area in which we want improvement this season.
“Players want to take part in every game so that’s my headache to handle but I’m really pleased with the current group.
“The attraction of our club is a reputation for looking after players within offering some wonderful facilities that can only improve with the completion of our 3G training site.
“That family atmosphere on top of the great reputation for winning trophies down the years gives us a platform.
“We set our own targets outside of what other clubs can or cannot do with whatever resources.
“Last season we suffered off players missing but now it is a case of working off a 22-strong squad or so and with competition for places.
“The hope is that becomes a positive to drive people on as we may operate on the basis that the guy with the shirt has it to lose but we want each player to look over his shoulder at quality competition.”
Loughgall grabbed the national spotlight last season with an Irish Cup adventure only cut short at the semi-final stages. Although memorable, Smith is searching for long-term progress.
“We are a lot more comfortable this season thanks to the past 18 months since coming to the club of learning a player’s weaknesses and strengths,” said Smith. “We feel we’ve shaped the squad with players of quality but also the right attitude for this club.
“You look back on last season’s Irish Cup run and it was a brilliant experience overall but, as manager, I want to take from it the early rounds and those positives, along with the lessons from the semi-final defeat.
“Everyone connected to the club enjoyed the run but we don’t want a pat on the head for that one-off experience.
“We want to be in the latter stages of competitions and challenging for silverware on a consistent basis.
“So much hard work goes on behind the scenes to keep us competitive, especially in a division in which teams have better financial backing than we can call on.
“We want year-on-year improvement.”