Belfast Telegraph

Good times will keep rolling for Cliftonville: Marc Smyth

Cliftonville 3-0 Ards

By David Mason

Defender Marc Smyth believes the best is yet to come from this record-breaking Cliftonville side.

The Reds wrote themselves into the history books on Saturday night by becoming the first team to win the JBE League Cup for a fourth successive time following an impressive 3-0 victory over Ards at Solitude.

Goals from Martin Donnelly, David McDaid - who also missed a penalty - and Stephen Garrett ensured skipper Ryan Catney (pictured) lifted the Cup once again.

They approached the occasion in front of a sell-out crowd at Solitude as hot favourites and they certainly justified that label. Had they been a little more clinical in front of goal, the scoreline could well have been a lot more embarrassing for the Championship One side.

"We lost Joe (Gormley) and Boyce (Liam Boyce) over the past few seasons which left us a bit short of attacking options," said 33-year-old Smyth.

"But look at us now, we've easily got the best squad in the league. No team come close in my opinion.

"This season has been a case of restructuring in terms of bringing in a new manager and recruiting new players. The squad we have now should guarantee there are really good times ahead. This could be just the start of something great."

Smyth has been heavily involved in the Reds' astonishing run in this tournament - they are now unbeaten in 20 matches.

"There are two or three of us that have never lost a game in this competition," he noted. "Conor Devlin and I came back from England four years ago. We've yet to taste defeat.

"To do that is a massive achievement itself. And to be the first team to win it four years in a row is special. It's a piece of history that can't be taken away from us.

"Records are there to be broken of course, but it will take a bit of beating.

"It's now 20 games unbeaten in the tournament. We'll extend that next year because we'll certainly not be knocked out in the first round. We don't know how long it will go on, but we'll just savour the moment."

Following a stop-start season, Smyth is delighted to be back in the team. He added: "I had a few injury issues that were not sorted out over the summer.

"The season had already started when I got fixed up. I got back into the side then twisted my knee against Glenavon, which set me back again, so I've been in and out.

"I'm now 33, so to win trophies is a massive bonus to me. I'm a realist. I'll only keep playing as long as I think I'm good enough to play at the top.

"I really can't see myself playing at any other club or dropping down a division. You can never say never, but it's not really in my thoughts.

"While I'm here, I want to keep winning trophies to do myself and the club proud."

Smyth was also thrilled for Gerard Lyttle, who picked up his first piece of silverware since replacing Tommy Breslin in October.

"For any manager, to win a trophy after only a few months in the job is a great achievement," he said. "He's been blessed coming into a good club with a sound foundation laid by the former boss.

"Gerard has added to the squad. He has just taken over where Tommy left off. But he has also brought in his own ideas. Seven trophies in three seasons is good shooting for any club.

"We think it's a given now that we should be winning trophies. When we don't, we ask why not.

"Our sights now have to be on the Irish Cup. It's the one medal that has eluded me. I would love to be part of a final... it's probably the biggest day in local football."

Goal hero Donnelly also heaped praise on Lyttle, who has helped re-energise the north Belfast outfit.

"Winning is a habit and the trophies we've won over the past few years are no mistakes," said Donnelly. "It's great to keep the winning trend going.

"Lyttle has been unbelievable since he has moved into the job.

"Tommy was amazing for the club before him when we won two league titles, but he has done things his way, changed training a bit and it's great to get our first trophy under him.

"Some people question why he plays me on the right, but I think my goal answered those. I cut in on my left and, when it opened up, there was only one thing on my mind - to curl it in and thankfully it came off."

Belfast Telegraph


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