Belfast Telegraph

How Reds ace McMenamin has taken the scenic route to the summit

Upward trajectory: Conor McMenamin has been shining for Cliftonville
Upward trajectory: Conor McMenamin has been shining for Cliftonville
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

From Big Two reject to the Irish League's in-form forward via a spell as Warrenpoint Town's make-shift left-back; it's been quite a journey for Conor McMenamin.

The Cliftonville ace has hit form with four goals in three games to end 2019 but, by his own admission, such a run has been a 'long time coming'.

It's hard to believe it was almost seven years ago that the Downpatrick man made his Irish League bow, and even more strange that he's only now realising his potential.

So what has gone on since March 2013?

It all began at Ballinamallard United's Ferney Park when he was named on the Linfield bench.

"David (Jeffrey - manager) stood up and gave everybody a big speech, saying he had left Peter Thompson in the house for a 17-year-old, which showed how much he thought of me," he said.

Jeffrey gave McMenamin another five substitute appearances and one league start until the long-standing boss departed in 2014.

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Life under his successor Warren Feeney wasn't so easy. The 2014-15 season failed to yield a single Premiership appearance.

"I was scoring goals for the reserves but wasn't really getting a chance," he explained. "So I met Glentoran and signed a two-year contract there. I started playing a lot and then scored my first league goal against Carrick."

Just minutes after McMenamin's breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win at The Oval, Eddie Patterson was sacked and he was made available for transfer come the summer.

A turning point arrived, via a call from former Linfield team-mate Matthew Tipton, now coaching at Warrenpoint.

After winning the Championship in his first season at the club, McMenamin started 24 Premiership games and won many admirers. But most of those appearances came at the wrong end of the pitch.

"I'd been left-back at Cliftonville U-16s," he said. "At Warrenpoint, our left-back got injured and I filled in. It was supposed to be a one-off, but I scored and set one up and that was it."

Before long, McMenamin was the victim of another managerial change. Unable to make every training session due to work commitments, Stephen McDonnell didn't make an allowance.

This time his form was enough to attract Cliftonville, who last night announced the signing of Michael McCrudden from Derry City

"All the talk was about me being a versatile player," he said. "I slotted in for Levi (Ives) at left-back, then playing up front, left midfield and in centre midfield once. I was all over the place."

Having been told by boss Barry Gray that he could leave in January last year, McMenamin rejected offers from elsewhere.

He said: "The following week, Barry was sacked, Paddy McLaughlin came in and I've never looked back. I bonded with Paddy straight away. He's a great man manager who always tells me how good he thinks I am. He fills me with confidence and thankfully I'm repaying him.

"I always believed I could get to this stage. Some of it was probably my fault and some of it was just bad luck but it's been a long time coming for me."

Cliftonville fans will just be hoping his penchant for a managerial change is at an end.

• Larne's Danske Bank Premiership encounter with Linfield at Inver Park has been re-arranged for Tuesday, January 28, with a 7.45pm kick-off.

It was originally scheduled for Saturday, August 31, but was postponed due to international call-ups.

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