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McMenamin and Brush truly inspirational, says McLaughlin

 

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Big moment: Paddy McLaughlin lauded Richard Brush’s
contribution to Cliftonville’s win on Tuesday night

Big moment: Paddy McLaughlin lauded Richard Brush’s contribution to Cliftonville’s win on Tuesday night

Big moment: Paddy McLaughlin lauded Richard Brush’s contribution to Cliftonville’s win on Tuesday night

Paddy McLaughlin toasted the key contributions of hat-trick hero Conor McMenamin and goalkeeper Richard Brush to Cliftonville's 3-1 defeat of Carrick Rangers on Tuesday night.

McMenamin's treble made him an obvious contender for the post-match spotlight but McLaughlin was quick to heap praise on Brush for the 79th minute stop that prevented Chris Rodgers drawing the Gers level with a bullet header from point-blank range.

The importance of his flying save to turn the ball against the crossbar was further underlined 90 seconds later when the Reds were awarded a penalty that allowed McMenamin to lay claim to the match ball while restoring his side's two-goal advantage.

On Brush's stunning save, the Solitude chief said: "I think the whole ground was expecting the ball to hit the back of the net and he's gone and pulled it out of the top corner at the last second.

"No other keeper in the division makes that save. If that goes in, Carrick probably fancy themselves to go on and win because the momentum would have been on their side but I keep saying Brushy is the best about and he's been coming up big like that for us all season.

"It's another example of a big player stepping up and making a big difference for us. We had been on a poor run through January and the only way to fully rebuild confidence is by winning matches and moments like that make such a big difference."

McLaughlin was just as effusive in his admiration for McMenamin, whose goal heroics in festive wins over Coleraine, Crusaders and Larne were crucial to inspiring the Reds' title push.

"He's been a big player for us since the second I walked through the door and he keeps delivering time after time," added McLaughlin.

"He's been criticised over the last few weeks because he hasn't hit the massive heights he was at over Christmas but you need big players to step up and take responsibility and, with that performance, Conor has shown why he's so important to us and why we rate him as highly as we do."

Though frustrated by referee Jamie Robinson's decision to send Liam Bagnall off for his challenge on Kyle Cherry, McLaughlin said his players' reaction to that setback spoke volumes for their physical and mental strength.

"It was a win that said a lot about our character and our fitness levels," he concluded.

"We played an hour of that game with 10 men and the boys put a hell of a shift in with absolutely no signs of tiredness.

"It was a tough ask after the red card because Carrick are a good team full of their own hard workers and we knew everyone in a red shirt would have to step up and try to cover the difference in numbers and nobody shirked away from that responsibility."

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