Cliftonville trio sign up for another title shot
Cliftonville have handed new contracts to the three most experienced players in their back-to-back league title winning squad.
Captain George McMullan, full-back Ronan Scannell and midfielder Barry Johnston have all agreed to extend their stays at Solitude for an assault on a third successive league triumph.
At 33-years-old McMullan is the youngest of the trio, with Johnston 34 and Scannell turning 35 earlier this week, but manager Tommy Breslin looked more at the contribution each of them made both individually and collectively as the Reds lifted the League Cup and the Danske Bank Premiership, rather than the numbers on their birth certificates.
"The players were keen and happy to sign up again and I was just as eager to keep them so it's a case of good business all round," said Breslin.
"All three are very experienced and capable guys who still have roles to play, as has been demonstrated by their performances over the last couple of seasons in particular.
"They've been fantastic servants to Cliftonville but what's most important is that they're not content to rest on their laurels and pat themselves on the back for the medals they've won – they want to kick on, improve and continue to succeed."
Between them McMullan, Scannell and Johnston have made over 1,200 appearances for the Reds.
Already departed from Solitude is striker Diarmuid O'Carroll, who has joined their north-Belfast rivals Crusaders after netting 15 goals in 92 appearances during two and a half years at the club, while Chris Scannell has already announced his retirement.
Breslin has also decided to release two players who spent spells away from the club on loan last season.
Midfielder Joe McNeill is expected to sign permanently at Coleraine, after being with the Bannsiders during the second half of last season and defender Dermot McVeigh, who was on loan at Championship side Carrick Rangers after spending the previous campaign at Lisburn Distillery, has also been let go.
The two players who were on loan to the Reds, will return to their parent clubs in the Scottish Premiership.
Centre-half Paddy McNally will go back to Celtic, while midfielder Jude Winchester returns to Kilmarnock after both made only fleeting appearances in the Reds' charge to the title.
"We naturally wish all of our departing players well and thank them for their efforts during their times with Cliftonville," said Breslin.
"Some of them were here longer than others but we appreciate their service and trust they will reflect fondly on their days in a Red shirt."