Cliftonville striker Ronan Hale looking to keep goal run going after injury return
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The 25-year-old scored 29 goals across all competitions for the Reds in 2022/23 and looked like he was shaping up for another huge campaign during pre-season this summer, netting five times in July’s friendly victory against Lisburn Distillery, but only a matter of weeks later suffered a medial ligament issue which resulted in him start the campaign on the sidelines.
Looking to make up for lost time, Hale has been straight back amongst the goals, scoring in consecutive Premiership matches, including last weekend’s winner during a 1-0 success over Newry City at Solitude.
He will be aiming to maintain that run when Jim Magilton’s side travel to Carrick Rangers on Sunday afternoon and the former Larne forward admits he’s delighted to be back.
"The first month was hard but once I got over that initial stage it was more about ‘how quickly can I get back?’” he said. “Thankfully the physio got me back quickly enough and now I want to stay in the team.
"I've got the taste for goals again and it's about scoring as many as I can.
"I have two in my last two and I want to keep it going this weekend.
"The biggest thing was ticking off the first goal because the longer that went on then you'd be beating yourself up.
"I have got that first goal and now I want to see how many more I can add."
Magilton has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to attacking options with club legend Joe Gormley, Premiership top scorer Ben Wilson, summer recruit Sam Ashford and Hale all available while Ryan Curran is currently recovering from surgery on a groin injury.
Hale is enjoying the healthy competition and feels it can only help Cliftonville, who sit third ahead of their trip to Taylor’s Avenue.
"I think it's brilliant,” he added. “There's a lot of healthy competition there.
"Ryan Curran is out injured and there's four strikers there with Joe, Ben, Sam and I who are all competing to start and expecting to start.
"It's really good competition to have and we're all doing our best. When people get their chance they are taking it, so hopefully it continues that way."
Ronan’s older brother Rory has undoubtedly been one of the standout top-flight stars this season and it was the 26-year-old that set up his sibling last weekend.
That connection could prove crucial if Cliftonville are to maintain their momentum and Ronan feels his brother’s form has been down to an “enjoyment factor”.
"Rory has been brilliant this season,” he said. “He's getting goals and top of the assist charts too.
"I think it's all down to the enjoyment factor. Him and Ben have been linking up really well too.
"When we're on the pitch we are always looking for each other so it's great to have that special connection."