After a fine pre-season Carrick RFC get down to the serious business this Saturday when they tackle Waysiders Drumpellier in the BT Shield on Saturday.
After promotion was achieved last season coach Gordon Brown is looking forward to the campaign but knows the first priority is to stay in West Division One.
Brown said: “It’s a challenge for our players to step up once again. Against teams like Kilmarnock, we have come up a little bit short in the past but when we have got into those games we have shown we are more than capable of competing.
“The first priority as always when you come up is staying in the league but we will be looking to spring a few surprises as well and you never know we could be dark horses for the championship.”
Carrick have won all of their five pre season matches with one result in particular proving satisfying to Brown.
“Going up to East Kilbride and winning 17-7 was a great display from the team considering they have just been promoted out of the league we are going into.
“And the performance against Stewartry on Saturday (where Carrick won 85-5) was one of the best I have seen in my two years here.
“We played them at the start of pre-season and the scoreline flattered us as we hit them on the break with three or four tries but on Saturday we were 50 odd points ahead by half time and we were playing great.
“I am delighted with pre-season and I am quietly confident but as you say you try not to look too much into it.
“You don’t know how strong teams are in pre-season and I do know East Kilbride had a couple missing.
“Pre season is great if you do well but it’s well and truly over if you lose your first league game.”
Glasgow Warrior Mark Bennett has joined Carrick to help out the team and Brown is delighted to have someone of his calibre on board.
“Kyle Johnston and Craig Davidson who are here are two of Mark’s best friends and I also used to coach with his father up at Kilmarnock.
“I think Mark enjoys being down here at Carrick away from the pressures of Glasgow and hopefully becoming a full Scotland international.
“There were a few eyebrows raised but the simple answer was that I asked him.
“The younger lads really respect him and look to him and he is one of the boys.
“He’s doing some great work with our running backs, even more so with what the players have been doing off the ball.”
During the season Carrick will face off against Kilmarnock and Coach Brown is looking forward to those games.
“I was a coach up there for a couple of seasons and of course John McHarg was head coach at Kilmarnock too.
“If we beat Waysiders on Saturday we would then play Kilmarnock two weeks in a row and there’s always a bit of extra spice with Ayrshire derbies.
“But I’m looking forward to playing against Garnock as well who won the title last season as well as challenging ourselves against teams like GHK and Glasgow Accies.
“The south west derbies against Newton Stewart and Annan should also be good too.”
As for Saturday’s game Brown is taking nothing for granted against Waysiders Drumpellier despite being a league above them now.
“We had a hard fought game up there last season and only secured the win in the last ten minutes and I also remember winning 8-7 up there in the mud a couple of years ago.
“But hopefully the pitch will still be in good condition at this stage of the season and I’d be confident of getting through the tie.”