Tiernan Lynch: Larne manager determined to build on maiden league success

Larne goalscorers Andy Ryan and Paul O'Neill celebrate
Larne goalscorers Andy Ryan and Paul O'Neill lead the celebrations after their side's 2-0 win over Linfield

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch says his side are determined not to "rest on their laurels" as they bid to retain the league title they won last year.

The champions secured a significant 2-0 win over last year's runners-up Linfield at Inver Park on Friday night.

"If you stand still you do get taken over. I have to make sure there is a competition for places," said Lynch.

We're only seven games in and we haven't done anything yet, there's a long way to go. We'll keep working."

Larne remain unbeaten in the 2023-24 Premiership season as they aim to build on winning the Irish League crown for the first time in their history last term.

Paul O'Neill gave the hosts an early lead against the Blues with a close-range volley and Andy Ryan capitalised on a defensive error to add a well-taken second.

"We've been struggling a bit with injuries and because of the injuries we haven't really had any consistency in our game so far this season," reflected Lynch on BBC Two NI's Irish League Live programme after the game.

"Tonight [Friday] was probably the first time we had a full selection to pick from. There are obviously still flaws there, things we have to work on, but the performance I thought we got was superb.

"It was about rolling ours sleeves up and making sure we got three points. We also wanted to make sure we got a clean sheet so we achieved both those."

O'Neill retained his place in the east Antrim side's starting team for the encounter with David Healy's team, with Lee Bonis coming off the bench in the second half.

"This is the first time we've had strength in depth in our team but when you have that strength in depth you have a problem, although it's a nice problem to have.

"We have to talk about being able to keep that shirt and pride in that shirt and what you do every day to keep it.

"It's not just about how you perform on a Saturday. There's more to it as far as culture is concerned and being at Larne Football Club.

"It's a privilege to be at Larne FC for all of us. I think that we showed that tonight.

"People like Paul O'Neill know they have a chance. He knows he has Lee Bonis breathing down his neck, we've also brought Ilijah [Paul, on loan from Real Salt Lake] in and he looks like a player as well.

"There's more to come from Paul. He knew he had to take his chance. There are other players tonight who knew, one slip-up, two slip-ups, then you might not play."

Larne have won four and drawn three of their opening seven top flight fixtures to again establish themselves in the upper echelons of the league standings.

"There's a lot of potential in this squad, a lot of youth in the squad, we had three 19-year-olds on the pitch tonight, which was good for us," enthused Lynch.

"You have to be able to get after teams - we have legs and we have energy. We also now have talent in the team - Mark Randall, Scott Allan, so it's horses for courses at times and now hopefully we will be able to do a little bit of both.

"We were quite pragmatic last year, maybe had to change our style from previous years, but I think now we need to get a balance in that.

"We want to go forward, we want to go after teams, but there are also times to play, and that's key to us.

"We don't go round shouting about what we want to do or how we're going to do it - we're very quiet about trying to remain league champions and add to that, and you don't do that with the same squad year in, year out.

"You have to get fresh blood in there, fresh faces in there to get that competition for places."