Cliftonville hitman Ryan Curran aiming to shoot down Coleraine in Bet McLean League Cup Final

Striker Ryan Curran is hoping League Cup Final success will prove only the start of a potentially massive finale to the 2021/22 season for Cliftonville.

By Kevin McLaughlin
Friday, 11th March 2022, 6:00 am
Cliftonville frontman Ryan Curran has been in outstanding goalscoring form this season. Picture by Philip Magowan/Presseye
Cliftonville frontman Ryan Curran has been in outstanding goalscoring form this season. Picture by Philip Magowan/Presseye

The 28-year-old believes if the Reds can manage to see off Coleraine in Sunday’s final the confidence boost would be a crucial boost for the remainder of the campaign.

“If we could win on Sunday it would be massive,” insisted Curran, “It would be massive for our momentum going into the semi-final of the Irish Cup and the run-in in the league. That’s one of our main reasons to go and win the cup on Sunday.

“Don’t get me wrong, we obviously want to win the League Cup but you have seen in years gone by the teams who have won cups, it can spur them on and give them that extra bit of momentum and belief. Sunday is massive, but hopefully there are even bigger prizes at the end of the season to fight for as well.”

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The former Derry City and Finn Harps front man knows it’s going to be difficult against Oran Kearney’s side despite the fact the Reds are unbeaten against them this season, having secured three victories and one draw in their previous four games.

Curran pointed to the Bannsiders’ cup pedigree of recent Irish Cup and League Cup success as evidence of the scale of the challenge in Sunday’s final.

“Coleraine have had a good cup pedigree,” he added. “They beat Cliftonville in the Irish Cup in 2018 and won the League Cup in 2020 so they have players who have been there and done that, but we give ourselves every chance.

“We have beaten them three times this season and drawn the other game but they have all been tight games. I’m expecting the same on Sunday but we’ll be going into the final confident after our recent run of results.”

The Reds go into the final on a fantastic run of form, having secured sevens victories on the bounce, and Curran insists their current form came about after some positive words were exchanged following their 2-2 draw at Ballymena United way back in January.

That evening Jamie McDonagh’s brace seemed to have sealed an impressive win at the Showgrounds before goals from Leroy Millar and Paul McElroy in the closing stages somehow secured a point for David Jeffrey’s men.

“We drew with Ballymena around six or seven weeks ago after leading 2-0 and the result was a bit of a freak. You couldn’t put it down to much, it was just a freak result, but there were a few words said after that game, it was nothing bad,” he explained.

“It was more about all the boys sticking behind each other and not being influenced by the outside, things like social media and stuff, but since that game we have won every match.

“We knew after the Ballymena result that we had to build up some type of momentum going into the cup final, although to be honest I think any cup final is a one-off game.

“I know that Coleraine got beat tonight (Tuesday) and they’ll probably be thinking that they don’t have any momentum going into the final, but in any cup final any team can beat any other, it’s all about which team performs the best on the day.”

The ex-Ballinamallard United man has been in top form over recent seasons and praised fellow Derry man, Paddy McLaughlin, for giving him the belief. Last season he scored 17 goals and had three assists from his 44 games, but this season already he has netted 20 goals and had six assists in the 38 games he’s played.

“I know Barry Gray signed me and I was playing under Barry but I probably wasn’t playing as well as I could have been. However, since Paddy has come in I think my game has probably gone to another level,” he insisted.

“That first year he came in I scored around 13 or 14 goals in the second half of the season. He’s instilled that bit of belief in me over the last couple of years. Every season that Paddy has been here I have done quite well. This season has probably been the pick.

“I have 20 goals now and that has been my best goalscoring return, but that’s probably testament to the rest of the team more than anything else. It’s not as if most of my goals have been individual wonder strikes, they have come because the boys around me have been creating chances for me and doing stuff that has gone unnoticed outside. Everyone in the dressing room appreciates everyone.

“It’s not just the person scoring the goal, there’s people who don’t get the credit they deserve in our squad, someone like Luke Turner who’s only 19 and doesn’t look fazed at all. He’s probably played the guts of 30, 35 games this season and has been excellent.”

The talented front man has played most of this season as a lone striker and admits he enjoys the role and can’t wait for Sunday’s encounter, especially with a big crowd in Windsor Park.

“I know I’m doing well and I have always had that belief but it has been about getting the chance,” he explained.

“There’s probably more pressure from within our team when you look at the likes of Joe (Gormley) and Paul O’Neill on the bench. To be fair, Joe is the first person to congratulate you or to spurn you on before a game. There’s no bad blood or anything like that.

“Even when we get to 60 or 70 minutes and Joe is coming on, you kind of take a breath of relief because he runs in behind and gives us something different.

“There are many different ways to win a match but I like playing up front on my own. I enjoy it but when you then see Joe coming on, it probably puts a bit of a freak into the opposition.

“Things are going well and long may it continue because we are now at the business end of the season with eight league games to go, a cup final and an Irish Cup semi-final coming up.

“In years gone by there wouldn’t have been as many people going to a League Cup Final. For whatever reason the final didn’t attract too many but recently I saw it there were 9,000 tickets sold for Sunday and that’s fantastic.

“Credit must go to the fans of both Cliftonville and Coleraine for selling that many tickets. As players that’s something you relish and look forward to.”

On Tuesday night, Curran’s clever pass set-up former Derry midfielder, Rory Hale to score the only goal of the game at fellow title contenders, Glentoran, and Curran recognised how big a result it was for Paddy McLaughlin’s side.

“It’s a huge result but we knew coming into the game that a draw would probably not be enough so we set out to win the game,” he insisted.

“The first half we battled well and there wasn’t much in the game. There weren’t many clear-cut chances but thankfully Rory (Hale) managed to take his opportunity and we managed to hold the lead very well, but we were camped in for the last 30/35 minutes.

“In years gone by we would have conceded an equaliser, so it’s a massive result and it’s another experience builder.”