KELTY Hearts boss Thomas Courts says his team are “refreshed, re-energised and ready to go” after kicking off their historic campaign last Saturday.

The 2016-17 Super League champions quit the junior game in June in favour of working to attain an SFA licence, benefits of which include automatic entry into the senior Scottish Cup.

To do so, Kelty had to make the move to the East of Scotland League, which provides a route into senior football through the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) pyramid system.

That gives winners of the Lowland League – one division above Hearts – a chance of winning a place in League Two but, before that, Courts’ men played their first competitive fixture since leaving the juniors in the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup.

They made the trip to the capital to face Tynecastle and it took them just 10 minutes to net thanks to Scott Dalziel’s header, before Murray Carstairs doubled their advantage just four minutes later.

The tie was won before half-time as Dalziel grabbed his second nine minutes from the break and, although the hosts pulled a goal back, Kelty claimed the points.

Ahead of yesterday's first home match with Stirling University, Courts told Press Sport: “We were back a bit earlier because the East of Scotland calendar kicks off earlier, but we feel refreshed, re-energised and ready to go.

“We looked at Tynecastle’s results in pre-season and I went to watch them last Wednesday; they’re a good side but in the first half we blew them away. In the second half we managed the game and, overall, it was a really pleasing performance.

“The players look at how hard they’ve been worked in pre-season and the friendlies we’ve had and realise that it is a new physical, mental and tactical challenge. The players and I are relishing it.

“We’re going into a relative unknown so we need to bring our ‘A’ game every week. There will be interest in Kelty Hearts because we’re the new boys, so we need to give the league and all the teams total respect.”

He continued: “It’s definitely a different style of football that I think suits our players. Most of the guys have played at senior level or have had a career in the juniors, so there’s new venues and teams to go to. It’s exciting.

“I feel like the team is in a bit of transition. I’m not hoping to play as much this season, my brother (Conrad) has retired and Craig Thomson has moved to Edinburgh City.

“It creates a nice dynamic if you have 2-3 people who aspire to drive the club forward for their own gain, and Craig was one of those.

“We didn’t offer him a contract; at this stage of his career, it was the right time for him to move on and we’re pleased that we helped him get back to that level.”

Along with Thomson and Courts, Neil McCabe, Josh McPhie and Devon Jacobs also left New Central Park in the summer while the club recruited six new players.

Newtongrange Star’s Errol Douglas, Arthurlie’s Ian Nimmo, former Cowdenbeath captain Kenny Adamson, Bo’ness United’s Ross Philp and Scott Christie, and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale’s Scott-Taylor Mackenzie all arrived, and Courts said: “We want players who know what they are getting into. There are a couple of longer journeys that we’ll face and we need everyone to be totally committed to that.

“I think we have that in bucketloads but it’s not just the player you’re bringing in; I know that it is a certain type of person that thrives at Kelty Hearts, which I think over the piece we get right.

“I’m buoyed by the way things are looking at the moment. We’ve had some challenges against the teams that we’ve played so far, and we’ll get ready for Stirling University this weekend and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in the Scottish Cup after that.”