Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Cliftonville could cope without Boyce: Donnelly

Linfield's Niall Quinn and Cliftonville's Martin Donnelly lend their support along with Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley
Linfield's Niall Quinn and Cliftonville's Martin Donnelly lend their support along with Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley

Martin Donnelly has declared that Cliftonville's challenge for an historic third successive league title does not hinge on Liam Boyce staying at Solitude.

The Reds talisman is dreaming of a return to full-time football after helping Tommy Breslin's men to back-to-back Premiership successes, with Chesterfield keeping tabs on the former Werder Bremen man.

And even though a switch to England for Boyce would leave Breslin with a big gap to fill, Donnelly believes the squad has sufficient quality to cope without the player he describes as 'the best in Northern Ireland.'

"Three-in a-row is possible, although we know that it's going to be tough," said Donnelly.

"If we can keep hold of Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce – obviously there is a lot of talk about Liam at the minute – then we have a great side there, with young players coming through as well.

"Joe broke the club's scoring record last season, so there's no doubting his ability.

"Liam is still there and hopefully he will stay, but if he doesn't we still have good players in the team and it will be up to them and myself to score a few more goals to help out.

"For me Liam is the best player in Northern Ireland and him and Joe as a partnership is the best by a country mile.

"I hope that he stays, but no player is bigger than the club.

"If he goes Cliftonville will be looking at others to come in.

"Losing him would be a big blow, but we have enough good players to be able to win the league again."

Cliftonville and Linfield were both in the running for the Premiership crown right up until the last week of the season.

And the two clubs are going stride for stride again to back the 'Between the Bridges' 5km charity event taking place on Sunday June 22 in support of the Northern Ireland Hospice, with Reds winger Donnelly joining Blues full-back Niall Quinn in launching the event, alongside recently crowned Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley.

Quinn, like all Linfield fans, is excited to see just who new manager Warren Feeney will add to the squad to join new signings Chris Hegarty, Sammy Morrow and Stephen Lowry.

"It's interesting from a player's perspective to see the squad we are building," said Quinn.

"We are patiently waiting to see who signs, but we are in the dark as much as anyone else. No matter who comes in I expect them to add something to the squad."

The Between the Bridges run will start and finish at the Park Centre as well as taking in Broadway and the Westlink, as far as the Grosvenor Road and back to the Park Centre. It costs just £10 to take part and all money raised will go towards the rebuild of the Adult Hospice in north Belfast. See www.betweenthebridges.org.uk or call 028 90 777123.

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