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Cliftonville won't take any risks with Joe Gormley in County Antrim Shield final, says McLaughlin

Ballymena Utd v Cliftonville, Toals County Antrim Shield final, Windsor Park, Today, 7.45pm

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Fitness worry: Joe Gormley has been nursing a hamstring issue

Fitness worry: Joe Gormley has been nursing a hamstring issue

�INPHO/Federico Matteucci

Fitness worry: Joe Gormley has been nursing a hamstring issue

Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin will take no risks with record goalscorer Joe Gormley at Windsor Park tonight even with the opportunity to win his first silverware in charge of the Solitude club.

Gormley has been nursing a hamstring problem lately but is expected to be named in the squad for the Toals County Antrim Shield final against Ballymena United.

Whether he features from the start, the bench or at all will be up to McLaughlin, who is wary of aggravating the issue and will do what is best for the club and the player.

Ideally, Cliftonville would love their main man out on the pitch for the decider.

Gormley is the top scorer in the Irish League this season and will fancy his chances of hitting the net this evening.

McLaughlin, though, will look at the bigger picture knowing that he will need Gormley for the title race and Irish Cup, both of which provide avenues into European football.

"Joe is obviously a massive player for us and everyone knows about his goal threat but we have to be careful with him,'' said McLaughlin.

Having come off in the 2-1 loss at home to Linfield, Gormley was a second-half substitute in Saturday's 1-0 league defeat at Carrick Rangers. It was a disappointing way for McLaughlin to mark his 50th match as boss of the Reds and saw them drop to fifth in the table having been top dogs earlier in the month.

Should Gormley play, he won't come up against the man he views as his toughest opponent in the Irish League - Ballymena's inspirational skipper Jim Ervin, extremely unfortunate to pick up an injury during his side's 3-0 home defeat to Glenavon at the weekend.

McLaughlin has excelled at the north Belfast outfit since arriving from Institute in February. The style of play is easy on the eye and the results have largely been impressive.

Winning a trophy would offer him and his players some tangible reward for their efforts.

"I wouldn't say this is the biggest game we have been involved in since I arrived because we had the European play-offs and some vital league matches but I do believe it is an important game in terms of the team's development,'' said McLaughlin.

"I've always believed no matter what the level that when a group of good players win their first trophy together it drives them on even more and I believe that can be the case with us.

"The league positions might suggest we will be considered favourites but I think it will be a tight game and certainly a tough one for us so we will have to perform.

"David Jeffrey has been an outstanding manager for many years and he has a very good side and very good players at his disposal at Ballymena. We won't be taking anything for granted, that's for sure.

"I'm pleased the final is at Windsor because it is a fantastic stage and hopefully it turns out to be an entertaining game and obviously I want our players and our fans to be celebrating at the end of it.''

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