George McMullan relishing IRN-BRU League Cup derby battle with Crusaders

CAPTAINS: Crusaders skipper Colin Coates (left) and Cliftonville counterpart George McMullan
CAPTAINS: Crusaders skipper Colin Coates (left) and Cliftonville counterpart George McMullan

Cliftonville skipper George McMullan admits he “can’t wait” for Saturday’s IRN-BRU League Cup final with arch rivals Crusaders.

There is usually little need to ramp up North Belfast derbies, such is the passion and tenacity of such a glamour fixture.

But throw in live television coverage – courtesy of Sky Sports – not to mention offering up major silverware at the end of it, and it all adds up to a potential thriller at Windsor Park.

Reds skipper McMullan admits he used to get excited by the prospect of taking on the likes of Linfield and Glentoran, such was the prestige of the so-called Big Two.

But now he says it is the fixtures with neighbours Crusaders that fire up the emotions.

And he insists it will be no different come kick-off time on Saturday evening at the international stadium.

“It is great. The North Belfast derby has got a new lease of life in recent years,” he said.

“During my early days I looked forward to games against Linfield and Glentoran, they were the ‘Big Two’.

“Now we look forward to the North Belfast derby. All the fans and the club looks forward to this one.

“We had a sold-out Solitude on Boxing Day, so it is a game that both clubs enjoy. And for this to be a cup final, live on Sky Sports, is great for everyone involved.”

The last time the two sides met in a glamour final was back in 2009 when Crusaders claimed a historic Irish Cup win over their rivals.

The Crues have continued their silverware crusade in recent times, notably lifting the League Cup 12 months ago before claiming an all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup last May.

“Both teams have been slowly building over the last few years. Crusaders probably kicked on from the 2009 Irish Cup final a little better than we did,” McMullan added.

“They have won the League Cup and the Setanta, but both clubs have been progressing and now we are competing with the likes of Linfield every year now.”