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Joe Gormley has eyes on the all-time Cliftonville record and a title shot

By Graham Luney

Joe 'the goal' Gormley has a message for Cliftonville's big rivals - don't rule us out of the title race.

The Solitude sharp-shooter was at Windsor Park on Wednesday night to help kick off the new season and there are big expectations in north Belfast where Crusaders are champions and the Reds in the mood to raid their neighbours and run off with the glittering prize.

Gormley is only 14 strikes away from becoming Cliftonville's record goalscorer - Kevin McGarry leads the charts with 170 - and when he no doubt reaches that milestone in this campaign it will a stunning individual honour, but the 28-year-old Belfast man wants to be a title winner again with the Reds.

Before leaving for Peterborough United, the former Crumlin Star ace won back-to-back Premiership titles with Tommy Breslin's side, as well as three successive League Cup triumphs.

Cliftonville lost last season's Irish Cup Final to Coleraine but under Barry Gray the squad is quietly confident they can make a big statement this season.

Gormley certainly cut a confident figure at the league launch at Windsor Park. There was no attempt to disguise his firm belief that the Reds should be taken seriously as title contenders.

With Ryan Catney back from his injury nightmare to add steel to the midfield, the striker may have a point. Certainly no-one will underestimate a side with the firepower of the two Donnellys, Rory and Jay, as well as Gormley and Stephen Garrett while Ryan Curran is a superb signing from Ballinamallard United.

"Coleraine bounced back from their Irish Cup Final loss and hopefully we can do the same," said the Ardoyne man.

"Perhaps it could be our year, we have the team and players and I don't see any reason why we cannot challenge for the big trophies.

"Come the start of the season Barry brought in a few players, including myself, and we needed time to get to know everyone. Now we are a team and will be hard to beat, I know that for a fact. When you're a Cliftonville player and you don't want to challenge for a league title there's no point in you being there. No doubt we will be up there challenging.

"You just look at Jay Donnelly who scored about 25 goals last season from the left wing and he is incredible up front as well. If I can strike a partnership with him you never know what could happen, but there are other strikers in the team who can deliver. Everyone will have to fight for their places.

"I'm 14 goals away from the all-time record Cliftonville goalscorer so 15 will break that. I got 34 goals last year and I'll always want to go one better so 35 and I'll be happy.

"I thnk every team will be hard to beat. Coleraine were brilliant, Crusaders are champions and Linfield will improve. Teams like Ballymena United and Dungannon Swifts will want to make a statement as well so it will be fiercely competitive as always."

Gormley's batteries are fully recharged after the Irish Cup decider which was a real hammer blow to a club desperate to end 39 years of hurt.

"I'm looking forward to the new season, when you've been out of the game for so long it's always nice to be back playing," he added. "I didn't dwell too long on the Irish Cup Final loss. It was disappointing but these things happen in football and you have to move on. Myself and the team will be motivated to make amends and maybe take one step further and win it."

While the Reds are confident of going for title glory, the team who conquered them in the showpiece final have the same dream.

Belfast Telegraph

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