Belfast Telegraph

McLaughlin glad to see his Joe Gormley call pay off

 

Familiar sight: Joe Gormley celebrates after netting for Reds
Familiar sight: Joe Gormley celebrates after netting for Reds

By Alex Mills

Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin believes Joe Gormley was the key factor behind his team's Europa League preliminary round win against Barry Town at a bouncing Solitude on Thursday night.

The Reds turned in a powerful performance, much to the delight of their fans, to book a first qualifying round slot against Norwegian outfit Haugesund, who are due to visit north Belfast on Thursday.

Conor McMenamin got the party started by heading Cliftonville into the lead, before Gormley - who was surprisingly left kicking his heels on the bench for the majority of the opening tie in Wales last week - rattled home the second.

In a one-sided second half, Conor McDermott opened his Cliftonville account before Rory Donnelly put the icing on the cake by blasting home the fourth to cap another famous European night for the Reds.

Having secured a scoreless draw at the Cardiff International Athletics Stadium, McLaughlin reckoned that Gormley was the man to unlock the Barry Town defence - and he was proved right.

"I had a big decision to make, but taking into account that we were the home side and the onus was on us to win the game, I thought we had a match winner in Joe," claimed McLaughlin.

"Aaron Harkin was the player who made way for him. He didn't deserve to be taken out, but I had a decision to make.

"We were disappointed we didn't win the first leg, but we worked in training on getting the ball forward quickly and being on the front foot, so having Joe on the pitch was key to our plans.

"Although everyone played a part in what was a great night for the club, I personally think it was Joe's best performance in a red shirt since I came to the club."

McLaughlin admitted the hard work in the build-up to the game paid a big dividend. The club is now due to scoop a massive financial reward after getting past the preliminary round stage.

"I'm pleased for the players that their hard work has been rewarded," added the former Institute boss, who replaced Barry Gray in the hotseat last February.

"We had a game plan and the boys stuck to it. We knew they (Barry Town) were good on the ball, but we frustrated them. We knew we had to win back the ball as early as we could.

"We were on the front foot throughout the game, so the credit all goes to the players.

"They took on instructions, implemented them throughout the game and turned it into a 4-0 win. All the plaudits and pats on the back go to the boys - they deserve them.

"To be honest, the players didn't really have much of a summer break, from winning the Europa League play-off against Glentoran to our match with Barry Town.

"We had them in early to make sure we could be prepared as much as possible for Europe - and there was not one complaint. You don't get anything without hard work, be it in football or in life. Those boys put in the work to get them the win.

"They are a great bunch - they are a group that really wants to do well for this club."

McLaughlin stresses the focus is now on Haugesund, with his boys in action again on Thursday.

"It's a nice problem to have," he added. "We could be preparing for pre-season, instead our sights are on another big night in Europe. It's going to be tough - the Norwegians will be a step up in class, but we want to do the best we possibly can.

"I know the boys will work hard in the build up to the match."

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