Cliftonville land Euro bonus from Spain
Cliftonville 2 Ballinamallard 1: Solitude has not been short of champagne moments in recent times but Cliftonville had plenty of cause for celebration this weekend.
As well as finally getting their hands on the Gibson Cup a fortnight after winning the Danske Bank Premiership, the Reds were also able to afford rapturous receptions to deserving recipients on and off the pitch during Saturday's 2-1 win over Ballinamallard United.
As the clock ticked towards full-time, nine-year-old fan Joseph McDermott – still recovering from multiple fractures to his neck, jaw, pelvis, ribs, arms, legs and ankles following an horrific car accident in January – was led pitchside to enjoy the best seat in the house for his heroes' title party.
Shortly afterwards, skipper Chris Scannell emerged from the bench for a cameo appearance at the end of a season cut short by an Achilles tendon tear back in August – an introduction which generated a louder roar than that which greeted the hoisting of the trophy after the game.
"I spoke to Chris during the week about the possibility of taking part but he wasn't too sure about it," explained boss Tommy Breslin after a game that saw Diarmuid O'Carroll and Ciaran Caldwell put the hosts in control ahead of Ryan Campbell's second-half response for the Mallards.
"He was concerned that if the game was maybe 0-0 or whatever and we needed a late goal, it might not be appropriate to bring him on, but I told him he wasn't missing out on this.
"He deserves it because he's been a great servant to this club and a great goalscorer, so being able to give him the last couple of minutes was a nice way for the fans to give him a reception.
"That's not to say his career's over or anything like that but, on the day we lifted the Gibson Cup, Chris just had to be involved. Obviously it came at the expense of others who were fully fit, but I'm sure they understand."
Further good news would follow when Cliftonville's players learned they would enjoy a slightly longer summer's rest as a result of entering the Champions League later than had been anticipated – all thanks to Real Madrid!
Jose Mourinho's side overcame derby rivals Atletico 2-1 on Saturday night to kick-off a domino effect of changes that will now see the Reds join the competition at the Second Qualifying stage – alongside the likes of Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb and BATE Borisov.