Stephen McDonnell hails 'fabulous footballer' after playing key role in Glenavon's fourth consecutive Premiership victory

The loudest cheer at Mourneview Park on Saturday afternoon wasn’t reserved for either of Glenavon’s two goals that helped them secure a fourth consecutive Premiership victory against Loughgall, but rather for Robbie Garrett when he was substituted late on following another commanding performance.
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Garrett, who has previously won four Irish League titles during his time at Linfield, helped marshal the Lurgan Blues midfield alongside Isaac Baird and Jack Malone – the two goalscorers – and was named man of the match once again as McDonnell’s men maintained their winning momentum.

They were sensational in the first-half with Baird pouncing from a corner after just two minutes before Malone’s neat finish into the bottom corner deservedly doubled Glenavon’s advantage – which could have been further extended prior to the break only for Aaron Prendergast’s effort coming back off the crossbar.

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The hosts were able to comfortably see out proceedings to continue their fine run under McDonnell, picking up a sixth win in 11 matches across all competitions.

Glenavon's Robert Garrett battles with Loughgall's Tiernan Kelly.  Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker PressGlenavon's Robert Garrett battles with Loughgall's Tiernan Kelly.  Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Glenavon's Robert Garrett battles with Loughgall's Tiernan Kelly. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Garrett has been crucial to that success and McDonnell says the 35-year-old will continue to be a key cog in the Glenavon machine going forward.

"Ribsy has been an absolute gem since we came in,” he said. “He's a fabulous footballer.

"He's not the Robbie Garrett of 10 years ago with the high energy levels - he still brings a lot of energy but it's very controlled.

"What he gives us on the ball is fabulous.

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"He controlled the game, he's so infectious and the knock on effect that has for our whole team is fantastic.

"He's just a really calming influence. It's (the reception) well deserved.

"He was a bit tired so that's why we made the decision (to take him off).

"Ribsy is 35 now, so he's getting on a wee bit, but he's still so effective and so good and a major part of what we want to do here."

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Glenavon have now won four of eight Premiership matches at Mourneview Park this season – their tally of 12 points gives them the top-flight’s sixth-best home record – and Saturday’s success moved them into eighth.

The fans were undoubtedly enthused by the first-half performance in particular and McDonnell wants to continue giving their faithful support something to shout about.

"That’s the biggest crowd we’ve had since we’ve came to the club,” he added. "This place used to be a fortress and we’re trying to get back to those levels.

"The players, taking away the quality we showed, the honesty, the work rate, how they’ve applied themselves – fans feed off that and the energy from the terraces translates back onto the pitch.

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"You have that connection which we’re trying to build again and ultimately we want to have a loud ground and one where fans are pleased and proud of what they see.

"That’s what we’re trying to do.

"We want three points whether it’s against Larne, Linfield, Loughgall, Newry – it’s a game of football where there’s an opportunity to do something.

"That’s the way we’ve approached it and we’ve came out the right side in the last four games.

"The most pleasing part is the clean sheets – we’ve kept three on the spin which is massively encouraging.”