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Cliftonville stars are fighting to be part of Gray's Cup final plans, says Curran

By Alex Mills

Although talk of next month's Irish Cup final has been banned in the Cliftonville dressing room, skipper Chris Curran admits the players know places are up for grabs for the big day on May 5.

It means there is no chance of Barry Gray's boys going through the motions in the final two league games. Although their title interest diminished some time ago, the Reds can have a major say in where the Gibson Cup will take up residence.

They make the short trip to Seaview tomorrow to take on Crusaders, who appear to have one hand already on the trophy.

It promises to be another tension-filled, rip-roaring north Belfast derby - and Curran wouldn't have it any other way.

"What a way to finish the season - away to Crusaders and then Linfield before we face Coleraine in the Irish Cup final," he said. "A lot hinges on this big derby game in terms of the title race - the same applies with the game at Windsor Park between Linfield and Coleraine.

"It's now down to whoever blinks first between the Crues and Coleraine. There will be a great atmosphere at Seaview. The stakes are high, but we have to remain focused on our job.

"We've two league games remaining, it's a chance to get a bit of momentum leading into the cup final. Realistically, we will not get the third-place finish that we were hoping for."

Curran admits his team have suffered from bouts of inconsistency over the league campaign.

"It's been frustrating at times," he said. "It just didn't work out for us in the league. We know we were not consistent enough and that let us down.

"We'd go on a run, unbeaten in three or four games, but then slip up. But we also know that on our day, we are as good as any side - we can live with the best of them, as we've proved this season.

"Cliftonville is a good place to be at this moment - the boys want to finish on a high, so we have two massive league games before the big day out on May 5."

Curran admitted that manager Gray put a ban on any Cup final talk. He added: "He told us to park it after the semi-final win over Loughgall, but it (talk) manages to crop up on occasions.

"The atmosphere is beginning to build - there is a great buzz about the place and the supporters are snapping up tickets.

"But we, as players, have to be professional about it. We still have a job to do in the league.

"We were disappointed with our performance against Glenavon. A few elementary errors cost us the points. I suppose it's better getting those out of the way now instead of on Cup final day.

"We'll be looking to bounce back at Seaview. I know Crusaders have their own agenda, but it's also a massive derby, so the bragging rights are up for grabs."

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