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Paddy McLaughlin: Irish League title race will always be fight between Linfield and Glentoran

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Looking up: Paddy McLaughlin is delighted with the way Cliftonville have been playing this campaign

Looking up: Paddy McLaughlin is delighted with the way Cliftonville have been playing this campaign

Looking up: Paddy McLaughlin is delighted with the way Cliftonville have been playing this campaign

Paddy McLaughlin says he’s enjoying watching Linfield and Glentoran shoot it out for the Danske Bank Premiership title.

His Cliftonville side might be a mere five points off the summit but McLaughlin insists talk of overthrowing the full-time operations elsewhere in Belfast is pie in the sky as he prepares for this evening’s trip to tackle Ballymena United.

Quizzed on whether he shared many observers’ opinions on a thrilling Gibson Cup race, he declared: “I’m enjoying watching Glentoran and Linfield battle it out for the league.

“It’s great to be clinging onto their coat-tails and it’s great if people mention us every now and then but we’re just doing our best week to week and seeing where it takes us.

“I don’t want to be trying to play things down or getting involved in nonsense games that people play. The league will always be a battle between Linfield and Glentoran. They’ve got the squads, they’ve got the depth, the resources and everything that you would want.

“We’re just happy to be challenging and in the mix at this stage. You never know what would happen, sometimes football can surprise you and if we keep performing the way we have been and getting results, you never know — we might finish third.”

Tonight’s game represents the first time since New Year’s Day that Cliftonville will go toe-to-toe with a fellow part-time outfit but, having performed well against advantaged opposition, McLaughlin is wary of walking into a complacency trap at The Showgrounds.

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“The games against Glentoran, Larne and Linfield were good tests for us to see where we’re at,” he added.

“People are talking about us challenging at the top end of the division and Linfield on Tuesday was the marker of where we’re really at because when you play against the champions, that tells you how close or how far away from them you are. I think everybody has seen that we’re not too far away from being a really good side.

“For such a big club that’s had so many talented players for a long time, for years and years we always seem to find it difficult at Ballymena. We’d like to break that.

“We’ve played really well down there a few times while I’ve been in charge, but there have been so many games where we’ve somehow failed to come away with a victory but the way the boys are playing, you’d back them and trust them to do the job.

“It’ll be tough, no doubt about it, Ballymena will be disappointed to have lost 3-0 to Carrick the other night and will want to bounce back from it.

“It should be an entertaining game but our boys, on the back of three brilliant performances, will look forward to it.”


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