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Tiarnan McNicholl back at Cliftonville in time to tackle former team-mates

By David Mason

Tiarnan McNicholl has returned to Cliftonville and will be included in the squad for tonight's showdown with Carrick Rangers at Solitude.

The 20-year-old has spent the past five months with Aaron Callaghan's side and was relishing the prospect of appearing in the League Cup final against Ballymena United on February 18 - but that dream has now been shattered.

"We sent Tiarnan out to Carrick to get a bit of experience and a bit of game time," said Reds boss Gerard Lyttle.

"We have monitored his progress. We were always going to assess the situation at Christmas time. We think he can now challenge for a first team shirt.

"Yes, it's disappointing for him in terms of the cup final, but Tiarnan realises the bigger picture. He has been at Cliftonville since he was a kid, he has grown in stature in his time at Carrick, so the time is right for him to return."

Lyttle's team will also be boosted by the return of Jay Donnelly from suspension and Jude Winchester, who has shaken off an niggling injury.

The Reds manager will be taking nothing for granted against a team that are battling for their lives at the foot of the table.

"We'll be giving Carrick our respect, as we do every team," he added. "We had a good result at their place a few weeks back, but that game is now gone.

"The reality is we are only half way through the league campaign and we are still on the tails of the leaders, so it's important we keep reeling in points, especially from the home games."

Rangers boss Callaghan is delighted to have acquired Kyle McVey from Ballymena United until he end of the season.

The 30-year-old, who joined the Sky Blues from Linfield in August 2014, could be the first of a posse of new faces to arrive at the Loughshore Hotel Arena in the January transfer window.

"Kyle has a vast amount of experience," said Callaghan. "In the position we are in, he's the type of player we need. Hopefully, we can add a few more."

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