The Irish Premiership Preview of the Week

Dr. Grant Campbell of the ‘Campbell’s Footballs’ podcast (a.k.a. Stato) discusses his predictions and thoughts each week in the Danske Bank Premiership in Northern Ireland. Grant will provide his thoughts on the upcoming league matches and offers his predictions.

MatchesStato’s PredictionsActual scoreline
Dungannon Swifts v Portadown2-00-3
Larne v Linfield2-23-1
Coleraine v Warrenpoint Town2-02-1 (1pt)
Crusaders v Portadown3-15-0 (1pt)
Dungannon Swifts v Ballymena United1-21-5 (1pt)
Glentoran v Carrick Rangers2-16-0 (1pt)
Glenavon v Cliftonville1-01-1

I managed four correct outcomes from last week’s matches with no correct scores.

Player of the week: Robbie McDaid (Glentoran)

This week’s player of the week was difficult to choose with so many good performances in the Irish League this weekend but I am going to give it to Glentoran hat-trick hero Robbie McDaid (pictured).

MY TOP 10 PLAYERS: Robbie McDaid | Belfast News Letter
Acknowledgement; Belfast News Letter

McDaid’s three goals against Carrick Rangers took his tally to eight for the season. Only his name sake David of Larne and Ben Doherty of Coleraine have scored more league goals so far this campaign. McDaid was also voted player of the season at Glentoran for the second year in a row last year, proving he is enjoying life playing at the Oval under Mick McDermott.

This season has been a slow burner for the team in green, red and black but McDaid’s performances and goals will definitely help to push the Glens up the standings long term.

Team of the Week – Ballymena United

There were a few contenders for team of the week this week as well. Larne beating Linfield to go four points clear at the top on Friday night was a superb win for Tiernan Lynch’s side. I picked them last week on this blog though so I didn’t want to be accused of favouritism by my readers!

Crusaders 5-0 thrashing of Portadown was also impressive as was Glentroan’s 6-0 demolition over Carrick Rangers as I mentioned above.

However, this weekend I am picking Ballymena United for their second half blitz at Dungannon, winning 5-1 after going in 1-0 down at half time at Stangmore Park.

Ballymena United FC (@BallymenaUnited) | Twitter
Acknowledgement: Ballymena United on Twitter

Dungannon took the lead courtesy of Michael Carvill’s opening goal from the penalty spot but responded well to going behind with a rousing second half display in which Jude Winchester, Tray Hume, Paul McElroy and Shay McCartan twice netted for the Braidmen, leaving the Swifts stunned.

After a slow start to the season, David Jeffrey’s side have real momentum. The Sky Blues are now unbeaten in their last five matches and with four wins from their last five games they have now moved into fourth place in the Irish Premiership standings.

Tuesday 15th December – Glentoran v Warrenpoint Town, The Oval, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI

After their thrashing of Carrick Rangers last time out, Glentoran face the first of two league games this weekend as they play host to Warrenpoint Town at the Oval.

It wasn’t just McDaid’s hat-trick that impressed me in their win over Carrick Rangers. It was the way that the Glens were ruthless in converting their chances.

Jay and Rory Donnelly also got on the scoresheet as did the returning Hrovje Plum (pictured) which will be a welcome relief for many Glentoran followers and supporters. It was Plum’s first start in a league game for Glentoran since sustaining a cruciate knee ligament injury in January. He will be a vital cog in Mick McDermott’s wheel if the Glens are going to make a push up the league standings following their slow start. This guy is an absolute maestro with a dead ball.

Hrvoje Plum out for the season as Glentoran's title bid suffers injury blow  - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Acknowledgement: Belfast Telegraph

Warrenpoint Town were cruelly denied what would have been a sensational draw last time around at Coleraine with 9 men. Stuart Hutchinson scored a brilliant free kick for Barry Gray’s side but they came unstuck late on as Stewart Nixon netted a late winner.

They will be without goalkeeper Gabriel Sava for the game as well as Gavin Peers (pictured) to suspension. Peers’ sending off was so bizarre and you’ll need to read the match report and watch then highlights to see for yourself. To Gray’s credit though, he did not use the two red cards as excuses. He was more disappointed with his side’s lack of game management as they failed to see the game out at the end and take what would have been a brilliant point.

Warrenpoint Town FC » Building on Experience
Acknowledgement; Warrenpoint Town FC

You have to go back to 2016 for Warrenpoint’s last win at the Oval and as much as I’ve been impressed with Barry Gray’s side so far this season I cannot see a shock here.

Glentoran looked impressive in their last game and I think they’ll make it another home win here, though not as convincing as against Carrick on Saturday.

Stato’s Prediction: Glentoran 3-0 Warrenpoint Town

Friday 18th December – Carrick Rangers v Crusaders, Taylor’s Avenue, KO 19.30, BBC Sport NI

Friday night’s game this week sees Crusaders, off the back of that impressive demolition against Portadown, travelling to Carrick who will want to bounce back from that Glentoran humbling last week.

Carrick just did not get going last week at The Oval and were blown away by the Glens once they conceded the opening goal. It happens sometimes to all teams. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Carrick and Niall Currie’s side will be hoping and demanding a reaction from his team.

Carrick usually fair better at Taylor’s Avenue but will want to improve on their last home game where they lost at home to Warrenpoint. They need to keep digging in when they go behind as at present, they don’t seem to have an answer in coming back. They also need to find some goals as well as them and Dungannon are the lowest scorers in the division at the moment.

Goals are not a problem for Crusaders who are now averaging two goals a game following that impressive display against Portadown last weekend. Jordan Owens, Philip Lowry (with a brace), Paul Heatley (pictured) and Adam Lecky were all in amongst the goals and it looked an imperious display from Stephen Baxter’s team as they dominated proceedings at Seaview last week. Heatey’s goal on Saturday was delicious and needs watching!

Paul Heatley signs contract extension with Crusaders - Belfast Live
Acknowledgement: Belfast Live

The Crues will be hoping for more of the same at Taylor’s Avenue on Friday night. I expect Crusaders to have plenty of the ball with Niall Currie’s team looking to keep it tight for as long as possible and hope that they can cause problems at set pieces or on the counter.

Stephen Baxter’s side should have too much quality though and will win this reasonably comfortably. I cannot see how Carrick could be any worse than they were at the Oval and I do think they will nick a goal.

Stato’s Prediction: Carrick Rangers 1-3 Crusaders

Saturday 19th December – Ballymena United v Glentoran, Ballymena Showgrounds, KO 15.00, BBC Sport NI

Glentoran’s second game of the week sees them travel to the Showgrounds to take on a Ballymena side who are really impressing me of late.

Ballymena’s recent form is documented above and their performances have also been of a high quality as well. There is no doubt that Jeffrey and his number two Bryan McLoughlin (pictured) are getting a tune out of the team just now even with Cahair Friel and Ross Glendinning being put on the transfer list recently.

Ballymena United Football Club Official News - David Jeffrey and Bryan  McLoughlin extend contracts
Acknowledgement: Ballymena United FC

Glentoran will be desperate to make it back to back victories this week and start to put a run together as we head into a busy Christmas and New Year period. The Sky Blues are a tough nut to crack though and I would not be surprised if the spoils are shared here.

The last time these two sides met was in the Irish Cup final back in July and that was a pretty close affair with the Glens winning the final in extra time. I can see it being very similar here on Saturday.

Stato’s Prediction: Ballymena United 1-1 Glentoran

Saturday 19th December – Linfield v Dungannon Swifts, Windsor Park, KO 15.00, BBC Sport NI

Both Linfield and Dungannon Swifts lost last week and will want to get back to winning ways at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Linfield were fairly comfortable at Inver Park last week until Graham Kelly made it 1-1 with a speculative cross-come-shot and then the whole game changed. I thought the Blues had Lynch’s side at arms length in the first half and Shayne Lavery (pictured) scored an excellent opening goal.

I don’t think Linfield got the rub of the green on some key decisions in the match but that is part and parcel of football. Some days you get them and some days you don’t. The penalty conceded at the end of the game summed up their night and David Healy’s frustrations post match. I felt it was very soft but it was clever striker’s play by David McDaid which gave the referee a decision to make in the first place.

Former Everton youngster Shayne Lavery scores wonder goal in Thursday night  to remember - Liverpool Echo
Acknowledgement: Liverpool Echo

Dungannon were so good in the first half against Ballymena and deservedly led to Michael Carvill’s (pictured) opening goal for the Swifts but in the second half they were blown away by the Sky Blues and they looked spooked by it all. They did not help themselves with some poor defending as well and Kris Lindsay was even quoted in his post match interview by saying he was embarrassed by his side’s performance.

Swifts can thrive under the pressure, says Carvill - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Acknowledgement: Belfast Telegraph

This is a tough game for Dungannon to bounce back from and I think the Swifts will suffer from more pain here with Linfield getting back to winning ways The champions rarely fail to win twice in a row and I think this could be a case of damage limitation for Lindsay and his team.

Dungannon have not won at Windsor Park since 2008 and I cannot see that changing here.

Stato’s Prediction: Linfield 3-0 Dungannon Swifts

Saturday 19th December – Portadown v Larne, Shamrock Park, KO 15.00, BBC Sport NI

Portadown will try again this weekend to notch their first home win of the season but they face the mother of all tasks as the Larne juggernaut rolls into view at Shamrock this Saturday.

The Ports have always struggled at Seaview in recent years and were simply blown away by the Crues last weekend. It could have been anything as they were up against a side who were ruthless and clinical. Ben Pierce (pictured) made a few good saves to prevent it being even worse than five for the Ports.

Portadown new boy Ben Pierce launches youth goalkeeping camp at Shamrock  Park - Belfast Live
Acknowledgement: Belfast Live

Larne did well last weekend against Linfield and that Kelly goal made a big difference for sure. The game may have been different though if David McDaid (pictured) had been sent off for a foul on Jamie Mulgrew which was missed by referee Ian McNabb.

I agreed with David Jeffrey and Stephen Craigan at full time that McDaid’s challenge was dangerous and over the top. In the current rules that should have resulted in an ordering off. To have not seen even a card was quite the let off and I am sure McDaid would have been breathing a huge sigh of relief.

David McDaid: Lee Lynch's 5k challenge is incredible but guess who's the  slowest outfield Larne player? - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Acknowledgement: Belfast Telegraph

That moment was crucial as McDaid played a big part in Marty Donnelly’s goal to make it 2-1 and won and scored the penalty to seal the win late on. Do not underestimate the quality of Conor Devlin’s clearance for the Donnelly goal as well. It was a sensational piece of vision by the Larne keeper.

Larne are flying right now and you really worry for Portadown going into this game. Their confidence must be on the floor after that Crusaders hammering and Matthew Tipton and his team will be determined to not get another pasting here.

I think Larne will win here though and make Portadown wait for their first home win of the campaign as a result.

The Inver Men have won the last three meetings between these two sides and I’m going to go for the same scoreline as the last time the two teams met in the Championship back in 2019.

Stato’s Prediction: Portadown 0-3 Larne

Saturday 19th December – Warrenpoint Town v Glenavon, Milltown. KO 15.00, BBC Sport NI

This could be an intriguing game at Milltown this Saturday as Glenavon travel to take on Warrenpoint Town.

This will be the second game of the week for the Point and it will be interesting to see how they get on here after playing then Glens on Tuesday night. It is also Warrenpoint’s first home game since that Linfield success so I’m keen to see if they can kick on and get another home victory.

Glenavon, on the other hand, will want to kick on after their 1-1 draw against Cliftonville on Monday night. Gary Hamilton’s team were arguably the better team for much of the game and should have had a penalty in the first half. However, they needed a Daniel Purkis equaliser to grab a share of the spoils against the Reds.

It has been a strange season for the Lurgan Blues so far. They lost their last two away games at Larne and Linfield but for large periods of both matches competed well. Gary Hamilton’s (pictured) men do draw a lot of games and this is the sort of game which could be dodgy for his side if they don’t take their chances when they are on top in games.

In matches this season, Glenavon have played reasonably well in and minus the Portadown game on the opening weekend, they have competed hard and with experienced players such as Colin Coates, Sean Ward, James Singleton and goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey, you have always give them a chance. Like Gary, these guys know what it takes to win big matches.

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton linked with Derry City managerial post -  Belfast Live
Acknowledgement: Belfast Live

This is a tough game to call but I think Glenavon will nick this one by the odd goal and deny the Point what would be excellent back-to-back home wins.

Stato’s Prediction: Warrenpoint Town 1-2 Glenavon

Saturday 19th December – Cliftonville v Coleraine, Solitude, KO 17.30, BBC Sport NI

Saturday’s evening game between Cliftonville and Coleraine is a huge match for both of these sides if they want to make a push for Europe after indifferent starts to the season. Both these sides have been massively inconsistent this campaign and are just separated by two points in the league standings.

Cliftonville did well to grab a draw last time away at Mourneview Park against the Lurgan Blues. I was delighted to see Daire O’Connor score after coming off the bench and he should have played himself into Saturday evening’s starting eleven after an impressive display.

Cliftonville have looked better at home than away this season having picked up the majority of their points and scoring plenty of goals at Solitude. Goalkeeper Richard Brush (pictured) will be hoping for another clean sheet as well to add to his four home shut outs he has had in nets this season.

Cliftonville Football Club » Richard Brush
Acknowledgement: Cliftonville FC

Coleraine left it late at home against Warrenpoint last weekend but got a much needed three points to take a bit of pressure off manager Oran Kearney after a slow start. The Bannsiders needed a late Stewart Nixon goal (pictured) to win the match against the Point but it may just be all it takes for Kearney’s side to start putting a run together. Ben Doherty also grabbed a sumptuous opening goal as well. I feel Coleraine are just one good performance away from going on a long unbeaten run and getting some confidence again. At the moment though, it all seems a bit like they want it too much sometimes and are trying to force the issue too early.

On the Spot: Stewart Nixon | Coleraine FC
Acknowledgement: Coleraine FC

If both these sides want to finish in the European slots, both need to win this game otherwise the gap could be insurmountable to sides such as Crusaders who are already nine and eleven points ahead of these two respectively (and might be more depending on Friday’s outcome at Taylor’s Avenue).

There’s not been too much to choose between these sides over past encounters and as a result I fancy a score draw here.

Stato’s Prediction: Cliftonville 1-1 Coleraine

Player to Scout – Caolan Loughran (Carrick Rangers)

Every week I pick a player in the Irish League for you to go and scout. This week I am picking Carrick Rangers versatile defender and midfielder Caolan Loughran (left).

Caolan Loughran 'loyalty' praised as defender signs permanent Carrick  Rangers deal | Belfast News Letter
Acknowledgement: News Letter

The 25 year old Loughran has impressed me since joining Carrick Rangers from Ballymena United a couple of years ago.

Loughran has scored three times already this season for Carrick including two penalties against Larne and Linfield and has in total scored almost twenty goals for the Amber Army – not bad stats for a side who are battling near the bottom of the league! He’s also not bad with a dead ball too as he has shown with a superb free kick against Larne in the past.

Loughran has an incredible family background as his father was a former Boxing World Champion and he himself spending time in America before coming back to play in the Irish League.

Loughran and his fellow Carrick teammates will need to be on top of their game on Friday night as they try to stop a resurgent Crusaders. But, with his dead-ball prowess and quality in possession, you never know!

Useful Links and sources which you should check out:

NIFL Premiership Highlights Show:

The Score NI with Michael Clarke:

The Waffle – Irish League Podcast

That’s What I Call Football

Check out quality Irish League content from some of the Leagues top names:

Joel Taggart, Liam Beckett, Michael Clarke, Nicola McCarthy, Colin Hopkins, Steven Beacom, Mark McIntosh and find some of the characters I’ve interviewed so far by visiting the Campbell’s Footballs archive.

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Published by Dr. Grant Campbell

My name is Grant and I am the host of "The only show where bad predictions are cancelled out by good craic": Campbell's Footballs. This podcast will host plenty of wild football predictions as well as interesting stories from a diverse range of guests from all life within football such as grassroots, media and journalism, ex-professionals and genuine football fans. Contributions, shout outs and conversations encouraged! In Association with music from Toby Johnson and Rory Hope.

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