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Irish League football united in grief but Straney will always be a Solitude hero, says Lyttle


By Graham Luney

Former Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle has expressed his shock and sadness at the passing of the club's former goalkeeper Paul Straney at the age of 42.

Lyttle, who is now Sligo Rovers boss, played alongside Straney and also tapped into his expertise as a goalkeeping coach when he became Solitude chief.

Like the rest of the Irish League family, the 40-year-old was stunned when he learned of his passing.

Straney had spells with Glenavon, Newry City, Glentoran and Telford United but is best known for his five seasons at Solitude, starting in June 2001 and while on the pitch his will to win was ferocious, away from the heat of battle he was colourful and popular character.

His death at such a young age has brought a flood of tributes on social media, underlining the respect and admiration he had earned in the game.

He was assistant manager with Amateur League team Kilmore Rec and the club said it is "absolutely devastated".

He will always be a Cliftonville hero after making 179 appearances for the club and helping them to a League Cup triumph in 2003.

Lyttle said: "I think the whole football community has been rocked and saddened by this news. It's just awful. With Christmas just around the corner it adds to the sense of loss.

"Paul was such a great character and person, a bubbly guy who will always be a hero to the Cliftonville fans. I was privileged to work with and know him. I think the tributes from across the league including Linfield and Glentoran fans shows how popular and respected he was.

"He was just a great guy and a very talented goalkeeper. He was a straight down the middle person and told you how it was. He wore his heart on his sleeve and at times he could be a bit eccentric and mad. That was just one side to his football personality.

"It's a massive loss to the football community and especially his family. My thoughts go out to them."

A minute's silence will be held in Straney's honour before today's home game with Glentoran and the players will wear black armbands. There will be a further tribute to Paul at the club's carol service after the game.

Cliftonville stated: "A hugely popular figure during his playing days with the Reds, Paul returned to Solitude as goalkeeping coach during Tommy Breslin's tenure as manager.

"He was a larger than life character, who was fiercely proud of representing Cliftonville.

"Straney's penalty shoot-out heroics not only saw off Crusaders in the semi finals of the League Cup in 2003, but also proved pivotal as the Reds overcame Larne in the decider to lift the trophy for the first time in history. Cliftonville Football Club extends deepest sympathies to Paul's friends and the entire Straney family circle at this very difficult time. May he rest in peace."

Kilmore Rec added: "Absolutely devastating news of the passing of first team assistant Paul Straney tonight. A legend of the local game, a winner and a true gent. Paul brought passion, enthusiasm and a wealth of experience to Kilmore and he will be very sadly missed by all his friends at the club. We would like to pass on our sincere sympathy's to Paul's family and friends at this very sad time. RIP Paul."

Tributes poured in for Straney on social media.

Reds ace Declan O'Hara stated on Twitter: "Can't believe the news about Paul Straney. Was a honour to have him as a team mate and a friend. #RIP

Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor summed up the mood of the fans: "Sadly once again the Cliftonville family is in shock & mourning, not only have we lost a former player & coach but also a true friend, a Red & one of our own. Rip Paul Straney, thanks for all u did & achieved at Solitude. Deepest Sympathy to his family at this sad time. #Legend."

Former team-mate Ciaran Donaghy stated: "Paul was the confident, competent, eccentric goalkeeper that you wanted on your side. Partial to the odd red card as he was fired up for every game, I have him to thank for saying that I have done nets in the Irish League! A real character who will be sorely missed."

Other Premiership clubs paid tribute including Glenavon who said: "It is with the greatest sadness that the club had learnt of the passing of former player and goalkeeper Paul Straney. Thoughts and prayers with the Straney family circle at this sad time. Be Just and Fear Not."

Belfast Telegraph

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