'100% he should be in the conversation' - Jim Magilton backs Cliftonville ace for Player of the Season award

After producing another midfield masterclass to help Cliftonville book their spot in the Irish Cup final, Jim Magilton feels talisman Rory Hale should “100% be in the conversation” for Player of the Season honours.
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The 27-year-old has had a tremendous campaign, racking up double figures in terms of both goals and assists across competitions as the Solitude outfit compete to end a 45-year wait for Irish Cup glory and also for Premiership success, sitting seven points behind leaders Larne ahead of Tuesday’s home league clash, which comes just three days after a 2-0 semi-final triumph over the Inver Reds.

There has been much discussion in recent weeks about the end of season awards after Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew hailed teammate Kyle McClean as the Irish League’s best performer following his starring role in their BetMcLean Cup final win against Portadown, and his case got even stronger by scoring twice in Friday’s 3-1 beating of Big Two rivals Glentoran.

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Alongside Larne’s deadly duo of Andy Ryan and Lee Bonis, the quartet seem the most likely contenders at this stage, and Magilton has thrown his support behind Hale.

Cliftonville ace Rory Hale. PIC: Inpho/Stephen HamiltonCliftonville ace Rory Hale. PIC: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton
Cliftonville ace Rory Hale. PIC: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

"100% he should be in that conversation, as should Jonny Addis and one or two others, but definitely Rory Hale has been outstanding and had a wonderful season for us,” said Magilton. "I think he has played more 90 minutes with us than in his lifetime and that’s good – it shows how determined he is to make a difference.”

Another player that has been a star performer for Cliftonville is 20-year-old Shea Kearney, who was recently rewarded with a new contract following a stellar first campaign in the senior Reds side.

"He’s a fantastic young player and he’s learning more with every game by playing alongside the likes of Jonny Addis,” added Magilton. “Odhran Casey has been amazing, as has Paddy Burns...it’s always tough coming into a new side and trying to replace a player like Luke Turner is a big ask.

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“The back five were magnificent against Larne – Sean Stewart was super on the back of a strong performance for Northern Ireland U21s. We had four internationals away last week with two U21s and two U17s and that’s a credit to them boys and the club.

"It can be slightly disruptive for your preparations, but we were spot on.”

Saturday’s win could potentially have a positive psychological impact on the Cliftonville dressing room ahead of the busy run-in with it marking a first victory over either Larne or Linfield – the league’s top two – at the sixth attempt.

Regardless of results, Magilton maintains full belief in his philosophy with three of those matches decided by a margin of just one goal.

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"You either believe in what you’re doing or you don’t – there’s no halfway house here,” he said. "You either believe in the players to carry out the instructions...these lads go on the pitch and don’t need many instructions.

"Tuesday will be a different mindset and game. We’ve had opportunities to win these games and we just haven’t taken them, but today we did and the ball bounced for us. We’re very respectful of Larne and what they bring to the table, so we have to get ready for Tuesday.”

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