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Tommy Breslin turns his attention to Cliftonville's defence of title

By Graham Luney

Tommy Breslin admitted he was living the dream while barking orders from the Parkhead touchline.

The Cliftonville boss normally doesn't have to make himself heard over 30,000 fans in an Irish League battle but this was a Champions League showdown at Celtic Park.

A few weeks ago Breslin didn't dare dream he would be patrolling the technical area in this awesome stadium in Glasgow's east end.

Now he will never forget the two matches which afforded him a once in a lifetime opportunity to go toe to toe with former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon in Europe's premier knockout competition.

The Hoops' 3-0 win in the opening leg of this qualifier crushed any hopes of a shock on a par with Celtic's win here over Barcelona last year but the minor detail of the 5-0 aggregate score failed to dilute the magic of the occasion in the away dressing room.

"I was buzzing," said Breslin. "To be met by that noise and see that many people is special. I've been to cup finals but I've never encountered anything like that.

"This was something else. I'm proud that I have represented Cliftonville in the Champions League and I am proud that we brought a team to Celtic Park.

"But that doesn't mean I don't sit at the end and think about us giving away two cheap goals. But in years to come we will look back and think did we really do that?

"I knew our supporters would come over here and have a great time. They cheered us on from the first whistle until the last but there was no danger of us being lambs to the slaughter. We stood up well to them and our pride was not dented.

"But Celtic are a class act and it told in the last 20 minutes."

Centre-back Efe Ambrose headed the Scottish champions in front in the 16th minute but another goal in the opening half would have been rough justice on keeper Conor Devlin who made several vital interceptions to foil Georgios Samaras, Mikael Lustig and Kris Commons.

The Solitude number one impressed watching scouts with another fine save in the 57th minute, this time denying Anthony Stokes, but the visitors were fortunate not to concede another when the Republic of Ireland striker poked wide with only Devlin to beat.

Samaras' 70th minute header doubled the Hoops' lead but luck was on the visitors' side when substitute Gary Hooper's overhead free-kick struck the post.

"I thought there was a good shape about the team and we coped really well," added Breslin.

"Celtic had a lot of the ball and you would expect that here but for patches we played very well. If the boys haven't learned from this they would be very foolish.

"I think we have played okay, we are still in pre-season too. The second leg was really damage limitation but there was no icing on the cake in terms of a goal.

"Conor (Devlin) made several important stops. I know how good he is. He's one of the players clubs will consider taking a chance on."

Breslin concluded: "Now we need to carry this form into our domestic league because we want more of this – we don't want to be one season wonders."

Belfast Telegraph


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