Marty Donnelly playing with a smile on his face

Cliftonville's Martin Donnelly
Cliftonville's Martin Donnelly

Cliftonville’s Martin Donnelly admits he is playing with a smile on his face again.

The former Sheffield United man has become a key element in Tommy Breslin’s trophy hunting team and is determined to add to his honour’s list in Saturday’s Wasp Solutions League Cup final against North Belfast rivals Crusaders at Solitude.

Donnelly, voted the December BT Sports Player of the Month by the NI Football Writers’ Association, admits he was on the verge of walking away form the Reds earlier in the season, but is delighted he had a change of heart.

“I didn’t really want to leave,” he smiled. “Obviously, I came here from Crusaders - this is the club I wanted to play for. But I wasn’t figuring as often as I would have liked at the start of the season.

“I had a chat with the boss about the situation. He told me I needed to do more. I knuckled down and kept working hard and thankfully started to add a few goals to may game.

“I’m now playing week in, week out and hopefully I’m repaying Tommy’s faith he showed in me.

“In all honesty, I don’t want to be a player that is happy to take my money to sit on the bench - I want to play a part in this club’s success.”

Donnelly is now relishing the prospect of facing his former employers in the showcase final, beamed out live by Sky Sports, even though the Reds have lost their last two games against Portadown in the Premiership and Coleraine in the Irish Cup.

“We are just not putting away our chances,” added Donnelly. “That has been a bit of a problem. Even against Portadown last weekend, we have four one-one-one situations with their goalkeeper, but failed to put them away.

“Although we are not playing with the same consistency as last season, we are still capable of creating chances.

“In saying that, we haven’t been dominating games the way we did last season.

“Some people say that we’ll struggle to score if Joe (Gormley) or Liam (Boyce) - they have bagged 48 goals between them - don’t do the business, but that is not the case, the goals can come from anyone.”

Donnelly also suggests that having home advantage will have no bearing in a one-off cup final.

“It will not make a big difference,” he added. “We’ll probably have more fans than Crusaders, but I don’t think the pitch will be an issue. Both teams are used to playing on a synthetic surface.

“There will be a bumper crowd which will create a great atmosphere. The crowd will be close to the pitch and certain players thrive on those conditions.

“It should be a great occasions for both North Belfast clubs.”