CLIFTONVILLE boss, Paddy McLaughlin believes there is reason to be optimistic as the Reds got their Europa League preparations underway with an impressive 2-1 victory over Derry City at Brandywell Stadium.
Goals in either half from Thomas Maguire and Conor McMenamin handed the North Belfast men a morale boosting win against a strong Candy Stripes team who are midway through their SSE Airtricity Premier Division campaign.
Derry captain, Barry McNamee pulled one back with a superbly taken strike in the final minute but it was a hugely encouraging performance overall from Cliftonville who were minus SIX key players, including last season's golden boot winner, Joe Gormley.
"We're very grateful to Declan (Devine) and the boys for inviting us up," said the Reds boss. "It was a good test for us playing on a good pitch against a good side, we needed it.
"It's our first preseason game so we'll not get too carried away but it's a good start for us. If we can keep playing as well as we did tonight and keep getting fitter and stronger, then signs are promising for us."
McLaughlin also hailed the summer recruitment with new signings, ex-Institute midfielder Ronan Doherty and Derry City loanee, Conor McDermott both impressing on the night.
"I'm delighted to get Conor on board until January," he added. "I watched him playing for Derry and was always very impressed with him. He has just been unfortunate with injuries so we're giving him the opportunity to get himself back to where he should be and we're delighted to have him.
"Ronan is what he is," he continued. "He's top drawer. It's a massive signing for us and we're delighted to have him on board. It wasn't an easy signing for us. We had to work hard on it but we got it over the line and he's key to what we're trying to do here."
Cliftonville take on Ards next Monday night at Solitude before travelling to Wales to face Connah's Quay Nomads next Saturday as they continue to build towards the Europa League first round tie against Barry Town United on June 27th next.
And McLaughlin believes their opening pre-season win against a quality Derry City side will breed confidence.
"We're only two weeks from European football so we needed a good test and we got everything out of it that we wanted out of it. A lot of our players got at least an hour under their belt before we brought on a lot of the younger boys the same as Derry did.
"So it was a really good exercise. We played some really good football. Winning was a bonus. It's not important but it's good for confidence.
"We had six key players on holidays. Fair play to them, they're taking their holidays in June when they could do what everyone else does and take them in July and spoil our plans for the season and the European games.
"They've got their holidays out of the road and it's good to know we've six key players still to come into what we already have here.
"We have a match against Ards on Monday night and a friendly in Wales on Saturday and the European tie the following Thursday. It's going to be a busy schedule for us but the boys have been working hard and if you work hard you will be rewarded."