Cliftonville striker Joe Gormley: I'll keep on dreaming
Clitonville 4 - Institute 0
Joe Gormley hasn't quite given up on his dream of landing a transfer to full-time football but admits that, at 25-years-old, the opportunity may have passed him by.
The Cliftonville striker took his season's haul to 24 goals as his third hat-trick in five weeks helped the Reds see off Institute at a chilly Solitude this weekend.
Signalling his intentions from as early as the second minute, Gormley got his angles wrong on that occasion - hooking wide under pressure from goalkeeper Martin Gallagher - and was also thwarted by both the crossbar and post before the interval.
By that stage, however, young starlet Jay Donnelly had already rifled the hosts in front but Gormley was not to be denied his traditional spot on centre stage; converting a delightful Davy McDaid assist nine minutes into the second period and smashing home from a Ronan Scannell pass before securing his latest matchball with a predatory finish after Tomas Cosgrove's teasing delivery from the right.
"It's great to play in a team like this with the amount of chances that are created," said Gormley afterwards.
"I've lost count of the amount of assists that Davy McDaid has now and then you've the likes of Marty Donnelly, wee Jay Donnelly and, before they were injured, Stevie Garrett and Chris Curran - everybody, really - who are setting things up for me to score."
He remains on course to smash the club's goals-per-season record of 37 which he set last season but insists keeping count of his tally isn't one of his strong points.
He added: "The boys were asking me afterwards how many that is for the season now and I couldn't tell them, I don't really keep count of things like that - I just try to score as many as I can in every game."
Boss Tommy Breslin was naturally thrilled with the frontman's contribution as the Reds got back to winning ways after slipping up against bogey side Coleraine last time out.
"We got off to a good start by getting the quick goal and that helped set the tone," he said.
"Even though we were on top, it was one of those days where you always wanted the second goal just to make sure.
"Thankfully, we got it and went on to get a couple more as well.
"Credit to Institute because they came here and played the way they're bred to, by playing out from the back with the ball on the deck, but we competed very well and created a lot of chances.
"Joe just did what he does best and that's putting the ball in the net. He had a few other opportunities over the course of the match as well and probably could have had another couple of goals but the main thing is that we won the match, got the points and are still in the mix at the top of the table."
While Breslin expressed his "surprise" that the champions haven't been inundated with requests to prise Gormley away from Solitude, the man himself says he won't be holding his breath waiting for a move when the January transfer window creaks open.
"I think I'm probably too old to make that move now," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if it happened because it's everyone's dream to be a professional footballer but I'm 25 now and it could take me a year or so to settle in and get used to everything - that's 26 and is anyone going to take that chance?
"It would be great if it happened but I love it at Cliftonville and hopefully I can keep scoring goals here.
"We're doing well in the league and cups, we have a lot of big games coming up and that's the only thing I'm really focussed on."