Portadown ladies’ head coach Jane McKimm is counting on past experiences to push the club forward this season at Premier League level.
The reshuffle of hockey’s structure helped preserve top-flight status for Portadown but McKimm is keen to make the most of the reprieve by cementing a position in the head division of the domestic ladder.
The hope is to learn from past lessons and hit the grounding running, using Ulster Shield fixtures as an extension of the pre-season development plan.
Portadown were scheduled to open the Ulster Shield this week away to Randalstown plus entertain North Down tonight (Friday) at Edenvilla Park from 8 o’clock before a derby date next Wednesday when Lurgan arrive in town.
“The hope is that we use the positives from last season to help us settle quickly this time around,” said McKimm. “I believe that, following the changes in teams and structure, the domestic league will prove very competitive, with any side capable of picking up a win on any given day.
“One thing we must take from last season’s experience is how you cannot afford to lose too much ground.
“We never really managed to recover from our struggles across November and December last year and that left us with too much to do despite improved form in the second half of the season.
“We have a building block in place in terms of those tactical and technical issues that required development work last season after promotion.
“We have that foundation in place now and will look to the Ulster Shield to help sharpen up those skills.
“You cannot improve your match sharpness on the practice pitch, no matter how much hard work goes into training.
“That is why we want to make the most of the Ulster Shield fixtures ahead of the league business.”
Personal commitments have left the Portadown panel with a number of players unavailable for the forthcoming campaign.
“We have around eight gone but others back at Portadown or promoted from within,” said McKimm. “One frustration is that the talented under 15s will still be too young to move up to senior hockey this season.
“Everyone is looking forward to the challenges ahead.”