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'Now we want more': Cliftonville's County Antrim Shield heroes fired up for trophy bids

 

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Late impact: Thomas Maguire started Cliftonville’s stunning Co Antrim Shield final comeback

Late impact: Thomas Maguire started Cliftonville’s stunning Co Antrim Shield final comeback

Ryan Curran

Ryan Curran

�INPHO/Brian Little

Late impact: Thomas Maguire started Cliftonville’s stunning Co Antrim Shield final comeback

Cliftonville's County Antrim Shield final goalscoring heroes Ryan Curran and Thomas Maguire believe their extraordinary Windsor Park success can drive the Reds on to more glory.

Paddy McLaughlin's side looked destined to experience a night of pain on Tuesday, trailing Ballymena United to a Leroy Millar goal until the super subs stunned the Sky Blues in seven minutes of stoppage time.

Maguire netted from close range in the 96th minute and then Curran produced a clever finish to win the trophy in the 97th, sparking crazy scenes of celebration amongst the players on the pitch and the fans in the stand.

Those late, late sucker punches were tough on Ballymena, who played extremely well, but illustrated the fight and never-say-die attitude in McLaughlin's ranks.

They will need more of the same in the league title race - the Reds are currently fifth, three points behind leaders Glentoran - and in the Irish Cup.

Curran feels the Shield success will make Cliftonville stronger for the challenges ahead. And the Reds will continue to expect fireworks from their star striker Joe Gormley after the club rejected a £60,000 bid from the Glens.

"There already was a good sense of belief in the group but this will give us even more,'' said Curran.

"I've seen other clubs win the County Antrim Shield and League Cup early in the season and it can take you on to bigger and better things.

"It puts that winning mentality in you and gives you a sense of achievement, and you want more of that and crave it.

"There are a lot of young lads in our team and this is their first taste of trophy success at senior level, which can only help us.''

Curran, 26, added: "We'd love to win the title but there are four other teams thinking the same. I think if we could go into the split still in with a chance we would have five Cup finals and, on our day, we would fancy beating anyone.

"There is no reason why we couldn't win all five of those games after the split.''

Gifted 20-year-old Maguire, who entered the fray on 81 minutes, said: "We have a never-say die-attitude and Paddy has pushed us on. He has made us believe how good we are and how good we can be.

"We are still not reaching the heights of where we want to be.

"Winning the Shield can help us in our aim to get there. Hopefully now we can push on in the league.''

The frantic finish to the final had echoes of Manchester United's epic 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League decider when Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored in injury time.

So how did Cliftonville's version of Sheringham and Solskjaer, who both insist McLaughlin and his staff have improved him them as players, feel about their last gasp heroics?

Curran, who came on after 68 minutes, said: "It was very surreal. You won't play in many games like that in your whole career, never mind in a cup final.

"We have played better this season and lost, but we stuck in there and got the result.

"When the injury time board went up with seven minutes to go, our crowd erupted and it gave us that sense of belief.

"Once it went 1-1, I had a feeling in my gut that we would win. When my shot went in there was that euphoria of scoring a goal times 10."

Maguire stated: "In the last 10 minutes of normal time, the game was flat, and Ballymena were defending well and we didn't put anything up to them.

"Once that seven minutes went up, we just went for it and it paid off.

"The character we showed to win reflects the club throughout, players, staff and fans, and I think we deserve this success with all the hard work we have put in since Paddy arrived.

"Now we want more.''

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