Cliftonville boast a new cutting edge
He's had to make do with a place on the bench of late, but Stephen Garrett is simply dyeing to be involved from the start in tonight’s Paddy Power County Antrim Shield final (7.45pm).
The Cliftonville striker has raised in excess of £1,500 for Children In Need after vowing to sport a red mohawk for this evening’s contest with Glentoran at The Oval.
Having delivered on his promise, all Garrett needs now is for Reds boss Tommy Breslin to give him the nod for a place in the starting XI.
Garrett’s recent run of goalscoring form has given his manager plenty to think about and his equaliser in Saturday’s Premiership defeat of the Glens was his fourth strike in the last month.
Even he admits that might not be enough to ensure his name is scribbled down as one of the first 11 on Breslin’s team-sheet.
“I don’t think anybody who’s been missing out over these last few weeks can have any arguments because the team has been going brilliantly,” said Garrett.
“I’ve done the best that I can when I’ve been given the chance, but that doesn’t mean I expect to start any game.
“The way I see it is I’m happy to see the team do well and though I’d obviously prefer to be playing a greater part, it’s results that matter the most.
“I’ve been pleased with how I’ve done in coming off the bench, but I’m not the only one who has been doing that.
“Ciaran Caldwell is the same, he’s been setting up a fair amount of goals and there are other quality players in different positions who can’t get in the team because of the run that we’re on.”
Saturday’s last-gasp victory over Glentoran was a club record-equalling 11th consecutive win for Cliftonville, but Garrett has warned that their chances of overcoming the same opponents tonight could depend on how well the Reds defence handle Gary Hamilton.
The former Northern Ireland international was used only as a second-half substitute at the weekend as he returns from a toe injury, but even in his 31 minutes on the pitch he completely altered the Glens’ attacking dynamic — and with silverware to play for that is something the Reds are likely to have to contend with from the start this time around.
“I think we were pleased to see Gary on the bench on Saturday,” added Garrett.
“He’s a fantastic player who can really make his team tick. He’s more than likely to be on from the start in this game and that makes Glentoran a totally different proposition.
“They have plenty of good players but Gary makes a massive difference.
“We just need to concentrate on our own performance because we know we can give anyone a game when we’re on form.
“I came to Cliftonville to win trophies and hopefully the County Antrim Shield will be the first of many. It would also be brilliant to give our fans something to celebrate because they’ve been fantastic ever since I first signed.”
Indeed, so determined are Cliftonville’s supporters to ensure that home advantage will not work in Glentoran’s favour tonight, they have been snapping up tickets in their numbers and investing in as much red merchandise as possible — including mohawk wigs from the club shop!
“At least they’re showing a bit of solidarity with me!” jokes Garrett. “I’d love nothing more than to score the winner for them — if selected!”
With no fewer than 15 scouts from cross-channel clubs running their well-trained eyes over Rory Donnelly last Saturday, it is no surprise that the Cliftonville striker is odds-on to be packing his bags before the start of next season.
The 19-year-old’s amazing goalscoring exploits have seen him hit the headlines in recent weeks and now he has silverware in his sights as the Reds prepare to face Glentoran in the final of the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield.
While the Glens are 4-6 favourites to lift the trophy, with Cliftonville ranked at 11-10, the shortest odds are on Donnelly being snatched away from the Reds by one of the many clubs monitoring his situation.
PADDY POWER RORY DONNELLY SPECIALS: Won’t be playing for Cliftonville in the 2012-13 season: 1-4, Won’t be playing in Irish Premier League in 2012-13 season: 2-5, To score a hat trick in the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield Final: 25-1, To score four goals in the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield Final: 66-1, First goal scorer in Paddy Power County Antrim Shield final: 5-1, To be called up to the next Northern Ireland squad: 8-11, Linfield to be his next permanent club: 10-1.