Irish Premiership: Baxter sets challenge for champions

Portadown's Sean Mackle and Crusaders defender BJ Burns battle for possession
Portadown's Sean Mackle and Crusaders defender BJ Burns battle for possession

Stephen Baxter says his Crusaders team must retain the title to be considered a great side ahead of the Premiership opener against Portadown at Seaview.

"I've told the players that great teams retain things, so lets see if they are going to be a great team," he said.

"It's a tough game - Portadown are a very good side and I expect a big performance from them."

Meanwhile, Cliftonville have signed Fra Brennan from Dungannon Swifts as they prepare to face Glenavon in Lurgan.

The defender arrives as the Reds go into the new season without prolific striker Joe Gormley after his move to Peterborough United.

Portadown forward Darren Murray continues to be linked with a move to Solitude as Gormley's replacement.

Premiership new boys Carrick Rangers start their campaign against the Swifts at Stangmore Park.

Gary Haveron has been confirmed as manager of Carrick, who have added top-flight experience to their Championship winning squad.

Joe McNeill, Mark Surgenor, Mark Miskimmin, Gary Browne, Chris Keenan and Barry Johnston have come in as Rangers aim for a long-term stay in the Premiership.

"We have to be very competitive, especially at home - it's important we look after our home games," said Haveron.

"A lot of people think playing the Swifts is a good starting game for us but it's a tough place to go and I think it will be a very hard match.

"We've prepared as best as possible and we are looking forward to being on the big stage."

Linfield are chasing a first league title since 2012 and Warren Feeney's side welcome Ballymena United to Windsor Park.

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney has assembled a squad of locally based players with the Bannsiders taking on Irish Cup winners Glentoran at the Showgrounds.

Warrenpoint Town and Ballinamallard United were involved in a basement battle last season and they resume hostilities at Milltown.

Danske Bank Premiership

Saturday 8 August - 15:00 BST kick-off

Coleraine v Glentoran

Crusaders v Portadown

Dungannon Swifts v Carrick Rangers

Glenavon v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ballymena United

Warrenpoint Town v Ballinamallard United

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