Cliftonville winning the league would be a football miracle says Paddy McLaughlin

While the debate surrounding the destination of the Gibson Cup this season may have been centred on events in East Belfast on Friday night it would be foolish to ignore what is happening in the north of the city.

By Steven Crawford
Sunday, 13th February 2022, 7:38 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th February 2022, 7:40 pm

Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin is one of those playing down his side’s chances of winning the league.

He likened it to a “footballing miracle” when pressed about the Reds’ chances of finishing top of the pile following their impressive win over Coleraine on Saturday, which helped them close the gap on second-placed Linfield to one point.

Obviously McLaughlin has his reasons for playing it cool.

Cliftonville have strength in depth as the keep on the coat tails of the top two

As well as keeping his side under the radar it also ramps up the pressure on the ‘Big Two’.

For me though you write the Reds out of the argument at your peril.

They are strong all over the park. They look solid in defence and lethal in attack.

For the time being though McLaughlin is more than happy for the “big boys” as he calls them take all the headlines.

“It was good to watch the two boys go head-to-head,” said the Cliftonville boss about the recent ‘Big Two’ clash.

“Obviously that is your title contenders realistically.

“Everybody after that is clinging on to the hope that something could happen and upset the odds totally.

“We’re happy enough staying out of the road and letting the two big boys battle it out and we’ll pick up the pieces along the way.

“If anything comes our way it will be brilliant.

“Football miracles do happen sometimes, but I think last night that was your battle for the title.”

Getting the likes of Rory Hale back in action primes the Reds for a big finale to the season though.

The midfielder played 54 minutes in Saturday’s win and McLaughlin was suitably impressed by what he saw.

“It was good to get Rory back on the pitch,” he said.

“We have to build up his match time.

“The choice today was do we start him or bring him on?

“I don’t think we were really able to judge him if we’d only seen him for 10 or 15 minutes.

“We wanted to see what he had before he hit a brick wall. He’s got a good hour into him now.

“He’s a key player we’re trying to get back fit and into the team. He’s such an influence in the squad and on the pitch when he’s at himself and fully fit.

“It’s brilliant to see him back as he can win you games and control games for you, so having back now is like having a new signing in the team.”