Mussels earned the right to make the step into Bostik League football after being crowned Southern Combination League Premier Division champions last term.
Donnelly came in as Shoreham’s under-21 manager halfway through the season but made the step up to first-team boss following Bryan O’Toole’s departure over the summer.
Although Mussels have never played at this standard previously, Donnelly has a wealth of experience coaching in the Bostik League.
Donnelly managed Worthing, Lewes and Three Bridges to name a few at this particular standard and has every belief his Shoreham side can avoid relegation this season.
He said: “It’s going to be a new challenge for the club and one I’m excited to lead.
“We’ll be facing new teams, going to new grounds and coming up against a higher calibre of player.
“There are no easy games at this level, it’s going to be a mixed bag, but I’m confident we can stay up this season. I think that is the first aim for me, making sure we remain in this division.
“Money hasn’t been thrown around by us in the summer, we’re probably working with one of the smallest budgets in this division. What I have assembled is a young, hungry squad looking to prove themselves at this level.”
Scott Packer, Jamie Cradock, Tom Caplin and Luke Donaldson have remained from last season’s title-winning team, while James Broadbent, Mitchell Hand, Henry Watson, Alex Laing, Ross Myers, Evan Archibald, George Rudwick, Mitz Nayee and Alex Gathern have all joined over the summer.
Very few of the remaining players – nor many of those brought in over the summer – have Bostik League experience but Donnelly does not believe that will have too much of an impact.
He said: “The squad is taking shape now but what you’ve got to remember is it is a new team. So many teams in this division are so well-established and have been playing at this level for seasons.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to surprise a few teams as they may not know a lot about us, especially early in the season.”
Mussels start life in the Bostik League South at home to South Park on Saturday, then travel to Culver Road to take on neighbours Horsham three days later.
Brighton & Hove Albion under-23s cruised to a 7-0 Sussex Community Shield final win over Mussels in their last game before the new season.
But Donnelly believes that will be forgotten once the season is under way.
He added: “They were a quality side. South Park will be a tough test but hopefully we can make a good start.”
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