Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville League Cup result never in doubt: Martin Donnelly

By Graham Luney

Cliftonville's League Cup final hero Martin Donnelly summed up his side's character and never say die spirit by saying he always believed the Reds would triumph at Windsor Park - even after Ballymena United's storming second half fightback.

Joe Gormley's double rocked the Sky Blues but David Cushley's brace turned the tide only for Donnelly to produce the decisive bit of magic.

"They were coming into it and David Cushley gave them a massive lift but no matter who we play I always think we can win the game," insisted Donnelly. "Even at 2-2, I was trying to get the players to settle down and once we did that the chances came and then eventually the goal from a wonder strike!

"We had to dig in which we have been able to do in recent years, though that quality has been lacking in recent league matches.

"People talk about going on runs in the league but it's important we take one game at a time and start winning. The league form hasn't been great but we had a meeting a few weeks ago and everyone came out of it determined to simply focus on each game and winning each game."

Reds midfielder Jude Winchester had a few consoling words for striker Jay Donnelly, who fired a few blanks despite the fact Cliftonville won the war.

"When it was 2-0, Jay had a few chances and we could have put the game to bed but he has been fantastic since coming here, probably our best player, and he can light up this league," said Winchester.

"These things happen and Jay's finishing is still top class, he is good enough to go across the water. We won't knock him for missing a few chances."

Centre-back Marc Smyth, who was named the sponsor's man of the match, says the team can be very proud of three consecutive League Cup wins.

"It's a brilliant achievement and the expectation levels we have created from winning matches is strange," he said.

"Any other club in this country would be over the moon at the trophies we have won already (League Cup, Co Antrim Shield and Charity Shield) and there's still a few to be won.

"We have been criticising ourselves but we need to stop that now. We are in transition and still winning trophies."

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