Cliftonville's Chris Curran enjoys champagne moment again
Crusaders 2 Cliftonville 3: Champagne celebrations are becoming synonymous with the final weekend in April for Cliftonville winger Chris Curran.
Two years ago, the former Manchester United starlet was toasting the Championship 1 title with Ballinamallard United and in 2013 he stood with those same team mates to respectfully applaud as Cliftonville were crowned Danske Bank Premiership champions.
Having moved between the clubs last summer, Curran played a central role in the latest Solitude party after helping the Reds land a second consecutive Gibson Cup crown.
Though life in north Belfast got off to a tricky start for the 23-year-old, he really came to the fore at the business end of the season and, with crucial opening goals in big victories over Crusaders, Glentoran and Portadown to his name, it was entirely appropriate that he should be the star of the show with a hat-trick as Cliftonville got the better of the Crues again on Saturday.
"Winning the Championship was a great experience but winning the Premiership is unbelievable," he said.
"It's a great feeling and one that everyone has worked so hard to make happen. I have to give credit to the rest of the boys in that changing room because they're double champions who had the hunger to go on and win it again.
"It's my first title medal and I just want to thank my team- mates, the manager and all of the coaching staff for helping to make this dream a reality."
Curran netted either side of David McMaster's equaliser on Saturday and completed his treble from the penalty spot before Jordan Owens pulled one back in a game that was controversially switched from Seaview to Solitude – giving the Reds a first 'away' win over Crusaders since August 2010!
"I feel like I ended the season playing with a lot more freedom," added Curran.
"I don't know where it came from and can't explain how it came about but I'll not be worrying too much about that.
"Since joining Cliftonville, I've won the League Cup and now the title but I want to go on and do even better in the years ahead."
George McMullan, who became the first Reds skipper in history to raise the Gibson Cup in consecutive seasons, said: "What we've achieved over the last couple of years is unbelievable and, to be honest, I'm not completely sure if it will ever properly sink in.
"After winning the League last year, people were quick to remind us that good teams are crowned champions but only great teams go on to retain the trophy, so that was something that drove us on.
"All the boys deserve credit for the strength and character we showed because we were eight points behind at one stage and, just when we looked like getting on a run, we lost to Portadown and went out of the Irish Cup all in the same week.
"That's when people started questioning us again and we knew we had to act fast to save our season."
Amid Saturday's celebrations, defender Ronan Scannell cast his mind back 12 months to some poignant words uttered by brother Chris in the aftermath of Cliftonville securing their first title since 1998.
"I don't know if he was just caught up in the emotion of everything but he said it wouldn't be 15 years until we won it again," he recalled.
"At the time, I'm not really sure what I made of that statement and being back-to-back champions wasn't something that I'd really considered.
"When you sat down and thought about it, though, there was no reason why we shouldn't have gone on to defend it.
"We already had the best squad in the league, which was added to in various positions which only made us even stronger.
"We had a tough time of things back in October and November when results wouldn't go our way, but our quality shone through when it mattered."