Tony McInally could be excused for thinking the bad news just keeps on coming for him and his Cumnock side ahead of their first taste of playing action in over a year.

The Ayrshiremen are Keanie Park bound later this afternoon to take on Johnstone Burgh (kick-off 2pm) and the pre-season friendly has taken on added importance for Macca in the wake of him confirming the departure of  recognised first-choice striker Ryan Caddis.

The 35-year-old former Ayr United signing only moved to Townhead Park from Hurlford United in 2019 but has now stunned Nock fans by opting to assume the role of team manager at Craigmark Burntonians, where he spent a period on loan last season.

McInally said:“Our opting to take a year out of football because of Covid restrictions opened the door for the previous Craigmark gaffer Graeme Neil - a long-time friend of Caddy - to ask him come in and help out in a dual player/coach capacity.

“A loan deal was struck between the clubs which suited all parties and I think he played a total of seven games in all. However, his training ground routines and rapport with the players also struck a chord with the people there.

“He was therefore the Craigmark committee’s number one replacement choice when Neil recently tendered his resignation because of other commitments, and Caddy immediately let me know what was in the offing before an official approach was made to Cumnock.

“The subsequent interview was nothing more than a formality and his acceptance of the job offer duly followed, so I’m delighted for Caddy and he leaves with our best wishes - even though part of me is still not sure if it’s the right club for him to be dipping his toe in the waters of football management.

“I’ve no doubts he will l give it his all but attracting players to such a remote outpost and not having a huge transfer budget makes it a tougher gig than most!”

Seasoned gaffer Macca admits to already having several transfer targets in mind to replace Caddis but currently ruled out of the running for the No.9 shirt is the striker’s younger sibling Liam, who was snapped up by the Cumnock boss in early April.

The former St Johnstone protégé, coincidentally loaned out to Craigmark last season from his previous club Darvel, is facing up to the prospect of several months on the sidelines with a debilitating pelvic problem, according to Macca.

He revealed: “Liam is awaiting a date for the surgical procedure after which he will need a further six to eight weeks' rehab, so it could be September or October before he’s ready to pull on the boots again.

“It’s a blow even though we were always aware of the likelihood of his injury flaring up but it’s reassuring to know surgery will cure the problem once and for all to allow Liam to get back to his best.”

Moves to reinforce the Townhead Park backroom team with his former Shotts Bon Accord No.2 Stewart Ralston as well as capturing youthful midfielder Callan Veitch from Hurlford United have put a smile on Macca’s face. However, he denied losing out in a chase for the signature of ex- Blantyre Vics winger Gavin Miller, who has joined Kilwinning Rangers.

He added: “Gavin has a good turn of pace and is a decent player but I can honestly say he was never on our radar.

"There are one or two new signings in the pipeline but transfer negotiations are at a very early stage so nothing will be concluded anytime soon.”

Johnstone Burgh come into their third pre-season outing in the past week with confidence buoyed anew following Wednesday night’s comprehensive 4-0 Keanie Park defeat of Irvine Vics which saw Jamie Sidebotham, Paul Stewart (pen), Sean Fitzharris and Jay Keenan on the scoresheet.

His team’s impressive showing was a source of great satisfaction for Burgh gaffer Jamie McKim but his mind is set on ringing the changes for today’s clash.

He explained: “We fielded a different starting XI in both games up to now to give game-time to the guys and it will be more of the same against Cumnock, even if it means we are not at our strongest.

“Taking on a team of their standing will challenge us and the same applies to forthcoming pre-season games against other Premier Division opponents Darvel, Clydebank, Pollok, Rob Roy and Largs Thistle.

“Going up against the so-called big guns is a big ask for a young side like ours but the players are keen to show they can compete against the best.”

McKim, 31, has completed the signing of powerful central defender Danny McBeth, who hails from Newton Mearns but has previously been playing in the Lowland League with Edinburgh University where he is a student.

Other games taking place today (Covid restrictions in Glasgow permitting) include a Keppoch Park meeting of Glasgow Perthshire and Arthurlie while Forth Wanderers host the visit of Bellshill Athletic .

Elsewhere on the comings and goings front, Darvel boss Mick Kennedy’s raids on the Senior ranks have continued apace with the acquisitions of ex-Stranraer midfielder Andy Stirling as well as prolific penalty box marksman Craig Moore from Ayr United, who was formerly on the books of Motherwell.

Fellow Ayrshire top-flight rivals Troon have reacted to the twin departures of Ryan Stevenson and Jamie McGowan to Albion Rovers by recruiting the former Kilwinning Rangers defensive pair of Tommy Maitland and Sam McLoskey.

And one hears Rutherglen Glencairn have signed up experienced East Kilbride goalkeeper Matt McGinlay. The shot-stopper was between the sticks when the Lowland League side lost out 2-0 against Celtic in their 2016 Scottish Cup clash.

The 31-year-old previously turned out in a couple of 2011 games for the Glens prior to moving upstairs to Morton.

Facing a race against time to fill a managerial vacancy are Dalry Thistle, where pressure of work commitments is being cited as the reason for long-serving gaffer Gavin Friels to tender his resignation.