Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville switch sights to title glory

By Steven Beacom

Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor believes Tommy Breslin is building something really special at Solitude.

And without putting too much pressure on Breslin and his players, the Reds chief insists that the north Belfast outfit have what it takes to win the Irish League title for the first time since 1998.

Cliftonville claimed the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night with a convincing 2-1 victory over Glentoran at the Oval.

In the aftermath of the celebrations, League One outfit Brentford put in an improved bid for Cliftonville’s exciting teenage striker Rory Donnelly.

Bees boss Uwe Rosler was at the Oval, along with Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers — the latest pair to watch Donnelly, whose goalscoring heroics have been the talk of local football and clearly beyond.

While Lawlor and his board discuss a potential move for Donnelly, they are also dreaming of a bright future and more trophies.

Currently the Reds, who have won their last 12 games, are in third place in the Carling Premiership four points behind champions Linfield and two adrift of Portadown.

“As a club we must re-double our efforts and do all we can to go on and win the title,” says chairman Lawlor. “I do believe that this team can win the title.

“It will be tough because two good sides are above us and Linfield remain the team to beat. Whoever finishes above them will be champions, but we do have confidence that we can do it.

“We are starting to dream that this team can be something really special. There is a great spirit, camaraderie and never-say-die attitude amongst the squad and Tommy Breslin deserves a lot of credit for that.”

When Breslin was appointed in the summer there were question marks about whether he could deliver, especially following on from predecessor Eddie Patterson who had much respect in the game.

Without question Breslin, an affable character with a solid work ethic, has shone.

“I guess when we chose Tommy there were question marks but we felt he was the right man for the job and that faith has been rewarded,” said Lawlor.

“He has been fantastic. On Tuesday night I was so happy for him, the players and our supporters who were out in force at the Oval.

“We had a crowd of 2,500 at the final which shows that the Red Army is still there and we could have sold more tickets.

“The challenge for us is to get all these people into Solitude every second week to watch us play our home games in the league because there’s no doubt the more support we have the better the chance there is of enjoying more success.”

There have been suggestions that if Donnelly departs for Brentford or somewhere else that Cliftonville would not carry the same forward threat, but Lawlor says: “Well, for starters I’m not convinced Rory wants to go. We’ll speak to him about what he wants to do but while Rory is a great talent we are not a one man band.

“For instance when he was taken off against Glentoran in the league on Saturday, Stephen Garrett came on to score and in the Shield final Joe Gormley did the same.

“We don’t rely on one or two players to hit the net like we did with Chris Scannell for a few years — lots of players chip in now which is vital.”

On the subject of new arrivals, Lawlor spoke about an ex-Cliftonville hero who is back on the market.

“There’s been talk lately about Liam Boyce coming back to the club,” he added. “I’d love Liam to return, but we’ll wait and see. The most important thing for us as a club is to continue to move forward.”

Belfast Telegraph

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