Rebuilding will be the theme of the 2020 season for Muckamore.
Following their relegation from the Premier League last season, they lost the majority of their first team squad with Neil Gill, Jamie Rogers, David Miller, Aditya Adey, Fahad Iqbal, Pavan Karthik and Karthik Rajavelu all departing.
Sam Gordon is the new captain, taking over from Gill who was in the role for almost a decade, and will take charge of his first game on Saturday when Muckamore host neighbours Templepatrick in the Robinson Services Trophy.
Despite losing so many important players at one time, Gordon is excited about leading a new project.
“As much as I would have loved to have some of the players still playing for us, I wish them the best and good luck to them, but it’s a great chance for the younger lads who didn’t feel they got an opportunity,” he said.
“They are definitely going to get one this year and we will see how it goes. We have a lot of young lads coming through so it’s very exciting.
“Everyone is energetic, keen and I can’t complain once about training.
“I’m looking forward to see how things go.
“It’s a fresh start for me and for the club so we will see how we take it. There isn’t a lot of pressure on us this year but obviously we want to perform at our best.
“As much as we all would have loved to see Peet Pienaar come in to light up the league, him not coming maybe suits us because it gives a chance for the likes of Luke (Allen), Ewan and Arnold (Oduvelil) – and that’s just mentioning a few.
“The likes of Jude Keates is coming up as well and he’s hitting the ball as well as anyone in the nets. We are looking forward to the future of the club.”
The club have brought in Ewan Wilson from Templepatrick and the Larne quartet of Eddie Hunter, Chris Keenan, Michael Kennedy and Aaron McKinley.
“Ewan has been great since he came in,” added Gordon.
“He is a great talent and he is someone that is going to look good in the future.
“Unfortunately I haven’t seen the lads from Larne play yet but by all accounts they are meant to be good players and I’m looking forward to having them part of the squad.”
There are a number of young players that will be handed an opportunity this season and with no promotion prospects, it could be the perfect chance for them to adjust to a higher standard without the same pressure on results.
With Gordon now one of the older players in the team even though still only 22, he is hopeful that the Twenty20 format will suit his side.
“All our boys are looking forward to it,” he said.
“We have a few guys that like going after the ball so it’ll be entertaining. I think we will definitely be up there in the fielding sides with the young lads.
“With the young lads and then a few older guys like (Richard) Keates and Les Allen, who are stalwarts of the club, will help with the bit of experience.
“I’m new to captaincy and a lot of guys are new to first XI cricket so it’s about pushing them on and building for the future because we do want to be a top league team. How long that will take us we don’t know but the lads have ambition.”
With the prospect of the Premier League turning into a 12-team competition from the 2022 season, Gordon has that in his mind as something to focus on and work towards.
“It’s definitely something we are aiming for,” he added.
“It might take a year or two to build up but it doesn’t matter how long it takes us. We are looking to do it as a team and keep all of the young lads together.
“That’s the most important thing because in the past it has been boys in and out each year but I think if we can keep a strong team for the next couple of years and we grow together, that is the key to being a Premier League team and sustaining it.”
That is the long-term goal but a more immediate target is putting together a side that is capable of progressing.
Gordon is looking to bring Muckamore back to where he feels they belong and is aiming to use this campaign as one for players to get comfortable before launching an attack in 2021.
“Our goals are all to do with rebuilding,” he said.
“We have lost so many in recent years so it’s about rebuilding, getting the team back to where it should be and giving the young lads a chance.
“This year is so important for our young lads. I’m saying that at 22 and it’s important for me too.
“Just getting the boys playing together and going out with no fear this year. If the boys don’t perform they will still be thrown the ball the next week and asked to go again.
“It’s a great learning curve for the lads if they do get hit about to question why that is happening and look at your own performance.
“You’re going to get better in match situations and you mightn’t get this chance again.”