If Portadown’s status last season as the surprise package of the Premier League proved key to progress, coach Mark Evans is counting this campaign on the forward momentum generated by familiarity.
A fifth-place finish marked a first-ever season at Premier League level as one to remember thanks to hard work away from the national spotlight but Evans is refusing to rest on past achievements.
Now entering a third season as head coach at Edenvilla Park, Evans considers the coaching shorthand in place between the backroom team and players a crucial element of planned progress.
“The bulk of the squad is familiar with our ethos, how we play and what we want to achieve,” said Evans. “When I joined, part of the remit was to give Portadown an identity that could be associated with the club by everyone in Ulster hockey.
“We are getting to that stage and it is pleasing, as a coach, to see how the players now manage situations within the squad dynamic without any need from me to highlight certain points.
“We have lost Geoff Edgar to retirement and Zach McClelland has left but the addition of four players is a real boost.
“Johnny Taylor has vast experience, Timmy Watt and Andy Brown can list time with Ireland under 18s and Mark Campbell has an Ulster background.
“We scored five goals during the first match at Raphoe in the Kirk Cup.
“It has been some time I imagine since anyone managed to put five past Raphoe away, so those moments can be considered nice points of progress.
“Last season many tipped us for relegation but I always had confidence in the squad’s ability and the self-belief within the group helped us push on.
“We were competitive across the season and now we have got to be thinking about momentum and the importance of building on that Premier League debut experience, this pre-season and the Kirk Cup.”