It's a new season and a new challenge for the Silkmen this time around, not least Ritchie Branagan, who's ready to make his mark at Macc.

The keeper was forced to play second fiddle to established stopper Rhys Taylor last season but having pledged to stay at the Moss Rose this term, looked - and indeed still looks - set for a run in the team.

This week Taylor also rejoined John Askey's squad but Branagan, 22, isn't preparing to drop down the Macclesfield Town pecking order, having impressed in goal throughout the summer.

The former Ireland U21 keeper, who left Bolton as a youth before graduating from the set-up at Bury, is ready, willing and able to don the gloves for Macclesfield's opener, at home to Braintree on August 9.

“I was buzzing to re-sign for the club, it was always what I wanted to do,” he said. “I enjoyed it last year, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to get into the team so as soon as I got offered a deal I was straight onto it. I wanted it to happen a bit sooner but because of the situation here I couldn't but I’m buzzing now.

“Other than dropping down a league I've never had the chance to play and to be fair when I was at Bury I was still really young so I never considered myself as a contender, and I'm pretty sure the management at the time didn't either.

“Now I feel I'm at the age where I am, it's a challenge and that's what I enjoy so I did enjoy it last year and the reason I re-signed is because I want to carry on my career here and see where it takes me.”

Ritchie's dad Keith Branagan saves from Manchester United's Andy Cole during a Bolton Wanderers match

It seems safe hands – and potentially serious injuries - run in the family as Branagan is the son of former Bolton and Ireland goalkeeper Keith Branagan, now the trotters' goalkeeping coach. Branagan senior was forced to retire with a shoulder injury 12 years ago but his son has had his own share of misfortune.

He found chances to shine in the first team few and far between last term, with two clean sheets from two league and FA Cup appearances, a win at Alfreton and Macc's historic 4-0 cup thumping of League One Swindon. Unlucky not to be back in goal for the following games, you'd think.

But his real misfortune came during a Cheshire Cup semi-final at home to Northwich in March, when he was stretchered off after a clash left him unconscious, whiplashed and with a neck injury. At the time he was happy that the number 13 shirt he'd had to wear was cut from him by medical specialists in Salford.

“I can't remember much about that, obviously I've seen the video but it was just one of those things, it comes with being a goalkeeper,” he said. “I hoped I would have had more chances to play, I wouldn't mind not getting these neck injuries though (a year earlier the then-Salford City keeper was taken away in an ambulance after a clash in a game against Skelmersdale).

Ritchie Branagan Macclesfield Town

“I'd say I'm now in a different challenge to last year, it's a bit more head-to-head with myself and Rhys and we'll have to see what comes from the situation. My mentality going into the season is that I've got to fight for the right to play again, if that's going to be the way it is then that's the way it is.

“The thing with goalkeepers is that we do work together a lot and every goalkeeper that I've come across I've ended up being very close with because, whether you take their position or not, you work so closely with them and you want them to do well, I'm pretty sure it'd be exactly the same here.

“If either of us was to go ahead then we'd be pleased for each other. I think it's unique in that respect because I don't think players in other positions would be like that but because we get to work with each other all the time friendships are built and we enjoy pushing each other too.

“We need that competition too, if you don't have it you can easily get complacent though that's the same for every position, it's good to have that competition, and Rhys is a great keeper, don't forget.”

And as for the chances of the Silkmen – routinely written off by bookmakers – pushing in the upper echelons of what will now be called the Vanarama Conference, Branagan has a degree of optimism, having seen manager John Askey at work.

Branagan has seen John Askey and Efe Sodje put together a competitive squad this summer

“The squad that we've got so far is good and I know we're still looking out for a few more players,” he added. “Going into the season, if we can get some of these lads signed on, including a few of the centre-halves we've seen, then we'll be in a really good position, compared to what it could have been, especially. So let's just hope we can get it sorted before the season starts.

“In terms of this season it's more that we're looking up than down. There's a lot of confidence about the place and I think that comes from us keeping a lot of good lads from last year. We're taking a good mindset into the season, hopefully we can get the squad sorted and we'll be looking alright.”