New boys poised to feature in Ards pre-season opener

Rory McKee


A NUMBER of summer signings could make their Ards debuts on Friday evening as the Red and Blues get pre-season underway with a clash against Premiership opposition.

John Bailie’s side visit top flight Ballymena United tomorrow night (7.30pm) in the first of a series of friendlies before the 2024/25 Championship campaign kicks off on August 10.

Defensive duo Mark Carson and Matthew McAvoy, goalkeeper Marc Matthews and forward Colin Oppong have all been put through their paces by first team coaching staff Daryl Phillips, Nicky Maye and Paul Kee following their arrivals, with the last week also seeing David McAllister, George Tipton and Corai Quinn train with the group.

Alex Moore is doing light duties as he continues to recover from the shoulder injury which hampered his involvement in the latter part of last season.

The versatile Carson has signed following a spell with Loughgall, where he was part of the group that won the Championship title in 2023. Joining him in bolstering Ards’ defensive ranks, Greyabbey native McAvoy – a relative of club legend Billy – enjoyed several great years with Amateur League club Rosemount as he played an integral role in the side’s rapid rise through the ranks of intermediate football.

Centre-forward Oppong has featured for a number of clubs across the water during his career to date, among them Salford City, Ipswich Town and Boston United. The 6ft 3in frontman spent last season in the Irish League with Glenavon.

Meanwhile, several trialists have been training hard in a bid to impress John Bailie and his backroom staff, with Corey McLaughlin and David Alfred catching the eye of the management.

Midfield player McLaughlin, 20, made 37 appearances for Dergview last term on loan from Coleraine, scoring against Ards on the final day of the season, and teenage winger Alfred played a total of 27 times for Cliftonville Olympic. Both players may feature on Friday evening at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

Following his departure from Ards at the end of last season, goalkeeper Neil Shields has joined Premier Intermediate League side Queen’s University and could be joined there by Matt Gorman, who played for Queen’s in their recent friendly against Bangor.