Harry McConkey looks set to head into the new season with a strong squad, after more of the Irish Cup final line-up committed to the club for the upcoming season. Central defender Matty Smyth has extended his contract, and he has been joined by Aaron Arkinson, Ben McCann and Dwayne McManus. The quartet join Richard Clarke, John Connolly, Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Campbell and Ross Taheny as McConkey looks set to hold onto his major players.

Academy graduate Smyth was attracting the interest of several Premier League clubs, so the manager was delighted the club’s young player of the year has opted to stay with his home town club.

“There were several Irish league clubs including Dungannon Swifts, Cliftonville and Ballymena United all interested in him and that is a reflection of how well he performed last season,” revealed Harry.

“For a centre half he is young, his studies are here, and he has enjoyed the fact he has got so many games under his belt. Him, Ryan O’Reilly and Ross Taheny are all players who are capable of stepping up a level but at this moment they have chosen to stay with us and to push next season to develop with us because they have enjoyed their experience here. That’s the pleasing thing for us, because it’s certainly not on the financial front they are staying with us.”

Dwayne McManus had a frustrating season interrupted by a succession of injuries, and his late season form has persuaded the manager to tie him down to the club for another year.

“I’m delighted to get someone of Dwayne’s experience,” said Harry. “We all saw at the end of last season the potential he has to be a big influence. It was a tough time for him when he kept breaking down with injury, and people kept getting in ahead of him. He has shown everybody with his performances, including at the cup final, that he has a lot to offer us yet and we are delighted because he is a Ballinamallard man through and through and he wants to prove that to everybody. There was a danger he could leave on a disappointing note but now he is full of optimism for the new season and he wants to have a good pre-season and challenge for one of those midfield roles.”

Also putting pen to paper this week was Ben McCann, another product of the youth academy. “Ben is a young player with huge potential and an exciting player who could be a very good IPL centre half in the future,” said the manager. “He was unfortunate that he got injured just before the cup quarter final and the other three boys got in and did very well. When he did come in for the league games he never put a foot wrong and he is one we value highly.”

And McConkeyis also delighted to have Arkinson on board for next season.

“It great news that Aaron has committed himself to our club for another season.After an indifferent start to his new club he has taken off and by many was awarded Mallards man of the match in the Cup Final v Crusaders.

“Arko has shown us a fantastic attitude all year and developed his defensive game to compliment his excellent attacking qualities.All we need now is to improve his goal tally and we have a great wee player.I want Arko to take great confidence from the second part of this season and add to it further next year,” said Harry.

Talks are also ongoing with other members of the squad, and Harry is hopeful they will not lose any players to other clubs.

“At this moment in time we have not had enquiries for anyone else,” he revealed.

“Sean McEvoy has been on trial at Portsmouth but because of his studies it would appear at this moment his thoughts are that he wants to stay here and stay with us next season, which is something that we are leaving entirely up to him and his family. Robbie Hume has had talks with me and looks like he wants to go again, and there are bits and pieces to be tied up with the likes of Josh McIlwaine and Nathan Cashel.

“They have all intimated that they want to come back and it’s now a case of getting down to the finer details and very quickly securing them all.”

In addition to re-signing last season’s key players, Harry is hopeful of bringing one or two new additions to Ferney Park.

“We don’t need to add a lot to this squad but if anything we need a bit of quality as opposed to quantity,” he said.

“I have spoken to several IPL managers and I have also spoken to Derry City and some Fermanagh and Western managers. There are a couple of players in particular that we would be keen to track, but whether we can get them and whether it suits them and their clubs, we don’t know yet.

“We are still hopeful but it can sometimes take until July or August to secure a player because clubs are uncertain who they can afford to let go.

“The biggest thing is that we have a good basis to go forward with, and we are hopeful we can add a bit of freshness to that.”