Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Cliftonville star Devlin dreams big again after Manchester United agony

Cliftonville's Conor Devlin is enjoying his football again after failing to make the grade across the water
Cliftonville's Conor Devlin is enjoying his football again after failing to make the grade across the water

Six years ago all Conor Devlin's teenage dreams came true.

He signed for Manchester United at the age of 16 and although there was still a long road in front of him, the north-Belfast boy was prepared to work as hard as possible to make it all the way to the Old Trafford first-team.

When that path to the top hit a road block in the summer of 2011, when he was released by the Red Devils, his dream began to turn into a nightmare.

An earlier loan spell at Hartlepool ended without Devlin playing a game. He joined Brentford last season, but again never sampled first-team football.

Now, however, after being left to wonder when he would play another game, if ever, Devlin really is in dreamland.

He's proved to be an astute acquisition by Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin. The 21-year-old's safe hands have already held the IRN-BRU League Cup and Irish League championship trophy.

And now he wants to bounce back from being at an all-time low by hitting the heights of treble joy with the Reds.

"It would mean everything to win the Irish Cup," said Devlin, ahead of today's final against Glentoran.

"To come from falling out of love with the game to then the next season winning the treble, which is one of the highest things you can do in this country, would be incredible.

"It's been an incredible turnaround for me. Last year I wasn't enjoying my football, I was seeing it as more of a chore and a job than anything else, but since I signed for Cliftonville I am enjoying it with this group of lads.

"They have made me feel at home and that has helped me progress in my career.

"It was very disappointing at the start after I was let go by Manchester United. I was still young then. When times are hard in football you surround yourself with the people that you know will be there even when you're not playing football and that's what I did.

"I had a strong family around me and strong friends. I got through it and pushed on to bigger and better things.

"Now I am on the verge of winning the treble. I couldn't have asked for anything more in my first season in the Irish League."

With a mature head on his young shoulders Devlin can look beyond the medals that he has won and his own individual joy to see exactly the impact that Cliftonville's success this season has had.

"Not only does it mean a lot to me personally, it means a lot for me that I have made so many fans happy," said Devlin.

"I walk into a shop and people are congratulating me. It makes you feel a lot better about yourself and it's good in that way.

"The day we played Linfield was incredible, driving up the Cliftonville Road and seeing all the red and white bunting out. Everywhere I went there were people wishing us luck.

"I'd never had that feeling before; playing under-18 and academy football you don't get a buzz.

"Playing here you realise that you mean so much to people that you don't know, which is a great feeling."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk