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Celtic bad bhoy Griffiths leaves a special gift for pal Casement

By Graham Luney

Leigh Griffiths was public enemy number one at Windsor Park when the Champions League qualifier between Linfield and Celtic exploded into controversy, but at least one Blues ace was thrilled to see the Scotland international.

Linfield defender Chris Casement, who lined up alongside Griffiths at Dundee, left the international venue clutching the striker's shirt, and it's just one memory from an historic clash that will have a special place in the Blues' history.

Former Hibs frontman Griffiths was pelted with missiles during the 2-0 defeat at Windsor but he was also charged with provoking supporters after he tied a Celtic scarf to the goalpost at the end of the game.

The 26-year-old was slapped with a one-match ban and he will miss his side's Champions League third round qualifying first leg scrap with Rosenborg.

Linfield were also hit with a partial stadium closure and fined, but the unsavoury incidents involving Griffiths, who didn't play at Parkhead in the second leg on Wednesday night, took some of the shine off the Blues' battling performance in a 2-0 loss at Windsor.

The striker is now the man Linfield fans love to hate, but he has one supporter at least in the Blues' dressing room.

"I got Leigh Griffiths' shirt from the first leg which I was pleased about because I know him from playing together at Dundee," admitted Casement.

"He's a quality player in a team full of them. Leigh wasn't even in the squad at Parkhead but Moussa Dembele came in and that says everything about their strength. They have two or three guys for every position.

"The players now know what they can do against that level of opposition. That can only benefit us both individually and collectively.

"Our fitness levels over the two legs were fantastic and we kept going right to the end. I think we matched them for fitness but they have a higher standard of player.

"It will be back to the bread and butter of the league for us, and our games against Celtic will stand us in good stead as we can adopt different tactical plans and we know our sharpness has improved. The manager has good options in terms of personnel.

"We can hold our heads high and now focus on winning more trophies."

Linfield lost 6-0 on aggregate to Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles, but in reality that margin of victory could have been much greater if it wasn't for the Blues' never say die spirit, Roy Carroll's brilliance and Celtic's wayward finishing.

Just a few hours after the 4-0 defeat at Parkhead, Casement's feet hit the ground again as he returned to work.

"I was back at work at 9am working in my father's shop," added the former Portadown defender. "It was a brilliant experience, the best moments of my life and career. Playing against players of that calibre and at Parkhead was very special.

"Celtic are a top-class side with a manager who has incredible experience, and for us to compete at that level was an unbelievable feeling. They are the best team I have played against but Celtic as a club were very professional and they treated us with huge respect. Their staff and security personnel were top notch and made the game more enjoyable."

• Lisburn man Johnny McKinstry has been appointed manager of Lithuanian side FK Kauno Zalgris.

McKinstry became the youngest international manager when he took over at Rwanda at the age of 27. He also had a spell in charge of Sierra Leone.

Belfast Telegraph


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