Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin eyes Irish Cup Final spot
Creggan native Paddy McLaughlin feels that Cliftonville season is far from finished and is looking forward to tomorrow evening’s Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup semi-final clash against old rivals Crusaders.
The Reds, who have already won the Bet McLean League Cup and sit just four points behind leaders Linfield having played a game less, have a chance to complete the treble, but McLaughlin is only focusing on tomorrow night’s Windsor Park showdown.
“We are in a good position in the league and we are one game away from an Irish Cup Final, so there’s so much to play for and there’s so much more than what we can achieve,” he insisted.
“It’s important that hunger remains and I have seen the boys in training this week and they have been brilliant and chomping at the bit to get onto the pitch.
“Obviously the cup success and the good run of form has meant confidence is high and the hunger and desire is their right throughout the squad and with so many big games coming up, we just keep ticking them off one at a time and it has worked well for us up until this point and we’ll not change now.
“Up until this point it has been a brilliant season and we have had a brilliant return from the players and obviously the fans have contributed an amazing part in that success as well, so everyone associated with the club should be proud of what we have done up until this point, but as I said there’s still so much to play for.”
McLaughlin is expecting a tough test against Stephen Baxter’s side and he feels their experience players such as Philip Lowry, Jordan Owens, Billy Joe Burns, Declan Caddell and Paul Heatley will play a major role in the tie, but he also concedes that his players are going into the game full of confidence.
“They have got real quality right throughout their squad and they have got a lot of experience and that’s why it’s always going to be difficult to play against that,” he added. “Those two attributes are what every team would love to have and as much as we have youthfulness and quality in our squad, so it’s going to be a bit of clash of styles, but we are looking forward to the tie.
“Our boys are going into it on a brilliant run of form 10 wins and two draws in our last 12 games, which is incredible at any level, in any league, so confidence is high within the camp and the players are hungry.
“Having had a free weekend last week, it gave the boys a chance to freshen up and rest up a couple of knocks and niggles, so the break came at a good time for us and now the boys are fresh and hungry to get back out onto the pitch.
“North Belfast derbies are always difficult, there’s a lot of passion and both supporters will be looking for the win for bragging rights, which is rightly so, but on the pitch both sides know that it’s not just the bragging rights, there’s a chance to get into the a cup final.
“We are focused on trying to get to another cup final, we have had a brilliant season up until now, however we don’t believe that our season ended a few weeks ago in the League Cup Final, because there’s still a possibility of adding to what we have already achieved and what we have already won, so Friday night’s match is a game we are looking forward to.”
The Solitude men will be without winger Jamie McDonagh for the last four tie, as the ex-Derry City man starts his first of a three games suspension, following his dismissal at Dungannon Swifts.