Belfast Telegraph

Irish Cup success is crucial to keep Cliftonville competing with league's cash kings: Garrett

By Steven Beacom

Stephen Garrett has outlined the importance of Cliftonville winning the Irish Cup in order to keep up with other Irish League sides who have already qualified for Europe next season.

As the Belfast Telegraph revealed last week, Crusaders could be in line for a record €1 million windfall from Uefa after winning the title and reaching the Champions League.

Runners-up, and Cliftonville's Cup final opponents on Saturday, Coleraine will also cash in, though not to the same degree, in the Europa League.

If Cliftonville miss out on continental football for a second season in a row, it will have a serious impact on their finances and budget going forward.

Having been at Solitude since 2010, Garrett is experienced enough to know how vital it is to have more than just domestic competition to focus on when a new campaign begins.

The Reds have two opportunities to qualify for the Europa League and bring in around €250,000, but they won't need to enter the play-offs if they defeat Coleraine at Windsor Park.

"I read that this year will be the biggest windfall ever for the Irish League winners and they could get up to a million euros, so we certainly don't want to lose track," said Garrett.

"You don't want other top teams to have extra cash because the investments they can make can make a big difference.

"We may have two bites of the cherry with European football but our aim will be to win the Cup and qualify for Europe at the first opportunity."

Garrett, 31, is one of Cliftonville's longest serving players. Time and time again he has netted vital goals at crucial times and tends to deliver on the big occasion.

He has won everything at the club bar the Irish Cup and wants to change that against the Bannsiders.

The former Linfield and Newry ace adds that the north Belfast side can't be distracted by all the talk of history in the build-up with Cliftonville seeking a first Irish Cup success since 1979.

"Our minds are set on winning a game of football," he says.

"If we become the first Cliftonville side to win it in 39 years that's the time to savour it.

"There's no point thinking about that until you have done it. We have a job to do.

"Our last Irish Cup final was five years ago against Glentoran. Back then we ran away with the league and people were suggesting that we were out partying after the title but that wasn't the case.

"We actually went 1-0 up in the final. It was just such a long season for us though that the Glens ran out 3-1 winners in extra-time.

"It just didn't happen for us on the day, but we aim to make it different on Saturday."

Garrett is expecting a cracking atmosphere at the Windsor showdown.

He says: "They beat us up at Coleraine a few weeks ago. We were leading for most of the game but when it went one each, the sound and the atmosphere was unbelievable.

"I think the fans from both clubs are two of the most vociferous sets of supporters in the league.

"We all know how passionate Cliftonville fans can be in getting behind the team.

"Hopefully it will be a loud final and it is loudest in our favour."

Belfast Telegraph

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