Loughgall star enjoying dream start to life back in the Premiership ahead of mammoth tests

Andrew Hoey takes in the applause after putting Loughgall 3-1 up away to Ballymena United. PIC: Pacemaker
Andrew Hoey takes in the applause after putting Loughgall 3-1 up away to Ballymena United. PIC: Pacemaker

Colin Coates opened the scoring for Ballymena after 37 minutes at the Showgrounds to give the hosts a half-time lead, but Dean Smith’s men roared into life after the break with a Nathaniel Ferris brace and Hoey’s smart strike propelling them up to fifth spot in the table.

While many may have expected the newly-promoted side to struggle in their first top-flight campaign since 2007, Loughgall have proved any potential doubters very wrong as they picked up a third league triumph of the season in impressive fashion.

The County Armagh outfit are now unbeaten in four matches while only table-toppers Glentoran (10) can boast a better points return on their travels so far this season than Loughgall (nine).

September is rounded out with a tricky trio of tests against Linfield, champions Larne and Cliftonville, and while saying their feet remain firmly on the ground, Hoey admits the whole squad are growing in belief.

"We can’t get carried away at the minute as the season has only started, but if you had told me at the start of the season we would have 11 points after seven games in the Premiership I would have laughed and said no chance!” he said. “We are all starting to believe now that we can compete with every team in this league.

"The reason we have to stay grounded is because we have three tough games against Linfield, Larne and Cliftonville in the space of seven days, so it’s going to be a tough week.

"We’re going into those games full of confidence off the back of some good results knowing if we perform to our ability we can get something out of them.”

It has been a dream return to the top-flight for Hoey, who last graced the Premiership as a teenager with Glenavon, but is more than making up for any lost time.

The 26-year-old has started in six of Loughgall’s seven league matches to date and netted his third goal in their victory over Ballymena, following on from strikes against Coleraine and his former club, Glenavon, last month.

As a collective , they’ve scored the same amount of league goals as Glentoran (12) with striker Ferris leading the way on four.

"On a personal note I’m absolutely delighted to get another goal and with the start I’ve made to the season,” he added. “I am far more mature and experienced now and really relishing the opportunity of playing in this league every week.

"It’s always been a dream of mine and I’m loving every minute of it.

"I’m over the moon for Nathaniel as he has worked hard over pre-season to get himself in the best condition to prepare for the Premiership and he’s getting rewarded for it by scoring goals at the minute.

"His overall play has been brilliant also and he’s been so important to our team doing well due to his hold-up play and bringing others into the game.”