Belfast Telegraph

Hat-trick hero Rory Donnelly is only getting started, warns Cliftonville boss Gray

Dungannon Swifts 0 Cliftonville 4

By Adrian Rutherford

Barry Gray has told Cliftonville fans there is even more to come from Rory Donnelly.

The striker rejoined the Reds this summer and has quickly found his old touch in front of goal.

His superb hat-trick was the defining act of this emphatic win over Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park.

And while Gray has been delighted with the 25-year-old's impact, he believes he can get even better. "We were probably criticised for signing Rory because everyone told me that we didn't need another striker," he said.

"Over the last number of weeks we have really seen him come to the fore. He still has a bit to do, there is still much more to come from him, but you can see him improving over the weeks."

Donnelly had scored a hat-trick on his last visit to Stangmore, back in December 2011, in the final days of his first spell at Cliftonville.

Soon afterwards he was snapped up by Premier League side Swansea, joining Gillingham four years later - but he's picked up where he left off with Cliftonville, scoring six times in his last three outings.

His first on Saturday came when he broke the offside trap, took the ball around a defender before finishing well.

Goal two arrived early in the second half. He capitalised on a slip by Liam McMenamin to head home. His third came from the penalty spot after a hand-ball by Seanan Clucas.

Donnelly was warmly applauded by Cliftonville's travelling support when he was subbed minutes later.

And in his absence, Joe Gormley made it 4-0 from another penalty, awarded after another hand-ball by Clucas.

Late on Paul McElroy missed a spot kick for Dungannon, capping a miserable day.

Gray added: "To score four goals and keep a clean sheet is very pleasing. I thought we were very comfortable.

"We scored an early goal and it gave us something to hold on to. The second one takes the wind out of Dungannon's sails.

"I was delighted to see Rory get the hat-trick, and then Joe coming off the bench to get his goal. Overall it was really positive.

"Daniel Hughes has come in for his first start and it was an impressive, hard-working 90 minutes from him. Tomas Cosgrove did well in a midfield role as well."

Dungannon have now lost three successive league games.

Head coach Rodney McAree admitted they deserved nothing.

"Cliftonville were better than us, we were second best today, and I've no complaints we lost the game," he said.

Dungannon: Coleman, McMenamin (McMahon, 65 mins), Clucas, Hegarty, Teggart, Wilson (Fitzpatrick, 65 mins), Harpur, Lowe, Burke (O'Rourke, 65 mins), Mayse, McElroy. Unused subs: Addis, Hutchinson.

Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Breen, Harney, Ives, Winchester, Curran, Cosgrove (M Donnelly, 68 mins), J Donnelly (Garrett, 40 mins), Hughes, R Donnelly (Gormley, 60 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, Lavery.

Man of the match: Rory Donnelly

Match rating: 5/10

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)

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