We were given a lesson: Currie
Ards manager Niall Currie believes his boys can hold their heads high - but admitted they were well beaten in Saturday night's JBE League Cup final at Solitude.
In an ironic twist, they blew a glorious chance of taking the lead when Jordan Baker headed wide of a gaping goal and inevitably, within 60 seconds, Marty Donnelly converted at the other end.
"That just epitomised the difference between the teams," said Currie. "They were ruthless in front of goal, we weren't.
"The reality is, Cliftonville have a lot of clever players. They have great rotation and a lot of their guys are comfortable on the ball ... their movement is fantastic.
"But when you defend poorly at this level against a quality side, you get punished.
"I thought we shot ourselves in to foot with the goals we gave away. We should have defended better and dealt with things better. In fairness, Cliftonville opened us up quite a few times over the course of the game.
"It may have been different if we had taken our chances. We had two or three really good opportunities, you've got to take them.
"To be honest, I think we can play better. I can't be too critical. They gave their all, they threw their bodies on the line. But in the end that wee bit of quality made the difference for them."
Currie, however, is hoping his boys can use the experience to help them regain their slot in the Premiership.
He added: "That's the plan. It's obviously a difficult league to win.
"If you don't turn up in the Championship, you'll be beaten. We've now got to refocus and regroup.
"I praised the boys after the game. I don't think it will be too hard to pick them up.
"The fact we got to the final was a credit to the players. It was a great experience for the younger lads in our team.
"If they want to kick on and play at a higher level, then they've got to take a leaf out of Cliftonville's book."