Paddy McLaughlin hails Cliftonville's character after last-gasp win

Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin last night hailed his team’s character following their dramatic Toal’s County Antrim Shield win at Windsor Park.

By Sports Desk
Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 8:59 am
Thomas Maguire celebrates his equaliser
Thomas Maguire celebrates his equaliser

The Reds produced a sensational smash and grab to defeat gutsy Ballymena United which earned McLaughlin his first piece of silverware since taking over at Solitude last February.

But they gave their fans a nervous finale because they trailed to a second half Leroy Millar goal until 96 minutes before substitute Thomas Maguire somehow conjured up an equaliser.

With the game destined for extra-time, another substitute Ryan Curran, popped in a winner with practically the last kick to send the Red Army wild with delight.

“The boys have a never-say-die attitude,” beamed McLaughlin, who was still trying to come to terms with his team Houdini-like escape in a frenetic final when he faced the media afterwards.

“These boys just don’t know when they are beaten. They have a great determination, which we seen in abundance tonight.

“They just never give up . . . they kept going and were eventually rewarded. They put in a tremendous amount of effort in the second half.

“I’m so proud of the team and I’m delighted for our supporters, who gave us great backing throughout the game.”

McLaughlin also has a tinge of sympathy for United.

He added: “It was a sore one for Ballymena United to take. I’m sure their boys are away home devastated. They defended their lead well, although it was a soft goal we conceded.

“There were two long-term injury breaks in the second half, so when seven minutes went up on the official’s board, you could have see the spark in our players.

“They were not prepared to accept defeat. We looked as though we had a goal in us.

“I knew we would get one chance in that period of added time. Once we scored the momentum was with us, but to go on and win it from that position was just unbelievable.”

Goal hero Curran admitted he couldn’t quite believe what happened in those dramatic final seconds.

“I’ve never played in a game like that in my career, never mind a cup final,” he said.

“We stuck at it. At the end of the day, it was not about performance, it was about the result.

“Once the seven minute board went, we knew we could salvage it.

“I had a feeling in my gut we would score. Yes, we left it and it’s hard to put emotions into words after a finish like that.

“Once Thomas scored, I thought Ballymena were a little bit vulnerable. When the ball broke to me, it just hit it and the ground erupted . . . it was one of the best moments in my career.”