‘Two in a row and more to go’ appears to be Cliftonville’s mantra after clinching back-to-back titles on Tuesday.
A spirited 2-0 victory over Portadown at Shamrock Park sealed another Premiership crown for Tommy Breslin’s side.
You could sense the collective sigh of relief as the Reds completed their primary mission with one game to spare.
Raucous cheers greeted Chris Curran’s classy opening goal in the 53rd minute, with the decibel levels lifting a level when news filtered through of Glentoran’s breakthrough against Linfield less than a minute later.
And when Stephen Garrett headed home a second goal five minutes from time, the celebrations could start in earnest.
It is the first time in the Cliftonville’s history that they have defended the title.
Breslin admits their latest title success could be regarded “the pinnacle”, but insists the club are here to stay as they plot more silverware success next season and beyond.
“This could be the pinnacle. I could be like David Moyes in a couple of months – they might want me out,” he joked.
“But if they are willing to pay me a few million quid then I will happily go.
“These times are here to enjoy. I am not really feeling anything now we have defended the title. It will sink in eventually when I have time to reflect.
“It is nice to have trophies and medals to look back on.
“But we are not finished here. We have to push on. We know we can’t stop here and we will go at it again next season.
“In sport these things don’t last and you have to move onto the next one.
“We feel we can improve and continue building. It is up to the players.
“They are a good bunch of lads, and if we are being honest we can say we were probably the best team over the past two seasons. That’s not in doubt.
“But the players need to retain that hunger and desire to move on. It would be a sin if we are not competing next season and beyond.
“There are a lot of young lads coming through, and they have to aspire to playing in front of big crowds and winning silverware.
“It is all there for them and we get that extra 10 or 15 per cent out of them because they are local lads who want to play for their club.”
The Reds were forced to graft for their win on Tuesday after a frustrating opening half.
But goals from Curran and Garrett in the second period lifted the tension at Shamrock Park.
“It is always nervy, and the pitch wasn’t the best to play on. Portadown also had their own goal of Europe, so we knew it would be tough,” he added.
“But our record over the last 13 or 14 games has been outstanding, and we have got over the line with a game to spare.
“The only team we hadn’t beaten all season was Portadown, so I am glad to put that stat to bed and get the win today.”
Last season Cliftonville cruised to the title, eventually finishing eight points ahead of Crusaders.
They won the Gibson Cup with four games to spare such was their dominance of the Premiership landscape.
This term the quality has risen to the top, but the character and mettle of Breslin’s squad has also contributed to their success.
“Last year we floated along on the crest of a wave. There was no expectation and we went week to week and enjoyed our football – and then all of a sudden we won the title,” Breslin said.
“This time there was more adversity, and we had to battle from behind. A few years back we chased and chased Linfield and never got in front. So it takes character to chip away at teams and get to the top.
“The pressure never got to us.
“It is a different experience to last year, but I think it is a better achievement.
“Winning a title is one thing, but defending it is something else.”
Cliftonville’s players and management team exited Shamrock Park on Tuesday evening and headed to Solitude’s social club to kick-start the party.
Breslin said the club would enjoy the festivities,but insisted the celebrations won’t linger as long as they did last season – which included an end-of-season trip to Majorca.
“There will be no Santa Ponsa for me this year. Last year was too much. It took me about 40 weeks to recover,” he laughed.
“I can guarantee you I won’t be going anywhere. We will celebrate at the club tonight and then train again on Thursday night.
“Seven or eight of them said they won’t be there on Thursday, but I can assure you they will.”