Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

I'm ready to hit top gear, says Cliftonville's in-form Rory Donnelly

By Graham Luney

Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly feels he's getting into his stride with the Reds but he wouldn't rule out a return to England.

Donnelly's dazzling form has earned him the Danske Bank Premiership Player of the Month award for October from Northern Ireland's football writers.

The 25-year-old helped steer Barry Gray's side to wins over PSNI, Warrenpoint Town, Glentoran and Dungannon Swifts with a fine hat-trick against the latter among his six goals.

The former Swansea City man has had to adjust to life back in Northern Ireland's top flight after leaving the Solitude side to chase his professional dream in 2012.

Donnelly went to Swansea where Brendan Rodgers was developing his managerial career but after failing to make an impact he embarked on loan spells at Coventry and Tranmere.

He signed for Gillingham in 2015 where he made 66 appearances before being released at the end of last season.

With manager Gray blessed with attacking talent and Donnelly lacking a little match sharpness at the start of the campaign, it was a challenging transition but he's confident he's now finding his feet.

"I'm feeling good, starting to get my fitness back and the team is performing well," said Donnelly, who will take on Carrick Rangers at Solitude tomorrow. "In the next few weeks I feel we will get more positive results and push up the table a bit more.

"At the start it was difficult because it took me a long time to make a decision about my future and I lost my way with my fitness. I've got that back and adapted.

"Most of my friends play for Cliftonville, as does my brother Jay, and after playing for them myself I don't think I was going to go anywhere else. I'm looking to bring this club back to the top.

"It's down to game management. We talk about stopping teams putting pressure on us but we have given away silly goals at the start of each half. Perhaps the players aren't switched on enough but it's something we will work on."

Glenavon midfielder Mark Sykes was runner-up for the award while Paul Heatley of Crusaders was third but it's the sharp shooting form of Donnelly that is exciting Reds fans.

On the prospect of going across the water again, Donnelly added: "You never know in football. It is something I would go for again but at the minute I'm just working hard and trying to bring success to Cliftonville."

If Donnelly's partnership with Joe Gormley can continue to prosper, then the Reds could finish the season in style.

"We have a good partnership, we know how each other plays," he added. "Scoring comes naturally to Joe and we know each other's game.

"We should be fighting for Europe. That would be a good achievement. We are not saying the league title is gone, it's obviously there to be won but we have to go on a strong run and see where it takes us.

"Coleraine have enjoyed a good start and they are a difficult team to play against. Glentoran are strong and can take points from anybody but most teams are like that. I don't see why we can't go on a run of six or seven wins and be up there challenging.

"Like any striker, there will be a time when you don't score but then you can hit a good spell."

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