Conor McDermott wants Cliftonville to be challenging
The former Derry City man insists Paddy McLaughlin’s men can challenge for silverware but admits last season’s abrupt coronavirus enforced finale adversely affected the Reds.
McDermott, however, is backing his Solitude team-mates to use that disappointment to spur them on for new campaign which gets underway this weekend.
“We were devastated. To be honest we are still devastated at how the season ended,” insisted McDermott.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic really kicked in we were starting to get into our stride around February/March time. We were picking up points and sitting nicely in fourth spot and I think we could have pushed on.
“The semi-final was a lottery when it went to penalties and it was my luck that I missed the decisive one. I have said to myself that I want to make that right this season and look to kick-on again.”
The 23-year-old says securing European football for the 2021-22 season is high on the club’s agenda.
“We have to try to get a European spot because Europe is massive for every club, especially after the pandemic. A lot of clubs are feeling the financial strain of it all,” he explained.
“Even this season it’s probably going to be a bit of a nightmare for clubs because no one knows what’s going to happen in terms of getting fans into matches. Maybe we’ll only get a couple of hundred but that’s going to be hard for clubs, so qualifying for Europe is going to be massive in terms of revenue.”
McDermott feels that while Cliftonville haven’t added many new players, he has high hopes for young players Ethan Devine and Mark McKee.
“We haven’t added too many but we haven’t lost too many players either and I think our squad is good enough anyway,” he said.
“We have added the likes of Ryan O’Reilly and a couple of young boys, Ethan Devine and Mark McKee. McKee is a brilliant player and if we can get him playing every week, he could be a massive signing for us so while we don’t have a big squad, we are happy with what we have.
“We’ll be looking to push on from last season and put things right because we felt that we let people down. We felt we should have qualified for Europe and we didn’t so that’s a big thing for us to get back up their challenging.”
This weekend the Reds entertain big spending Glentoran and with Jay and Ruaidhri Donnelly returning to Solitude, McDermott believes Saturday’s game has all the ingredients of a classic and he can’t wait to enjoy a laugh afterwards with his good friend and Glens centre-back, Patrick McClean.
“It will be a massive game, probably the biggest on Saturday. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘revenge’ but we are out to make things right from the Irish Cup semi-final because we felt we let it slip that night,” he confirmed.
“To be honest we couldn’t have asked for a better game to start with. They have the likes of Jay and Ruaidhri coming back to Solitude with the Glens, so it has everything in place to be a great occasion.
“Ever since the penalty miss Paddy (McClean) has been slagging me so hopefully I can put things right this Saturday against him.
“We are good friends and have a lot of fun, even during games at times, but while we are mates, we take things serious and both of us always want to win.”