Belfast Telegraph

Stars and fans honour Cliftonville ace George McMullan

Cliftonville 0-3 Celtic XI

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville paid tribute to George McMullan at an emotional Solitude, where a young Celtic XI clocked up a 3-0 victory.

Fiacre Kelleher, Calvin Millar and substitute Mark Hill found the target as the Parkhead Development Squad ran out winners on an evening that saw Reds boss Gerard Lyttle make use of 20 players, all keen to play their part in an historic occasion.

The regularity with which a player's importance to a club "on and off the pitch" is hailed has become a cliché but rarely does it ring more true than when applied to McMullan.

For last night, in the build-up to one of the biggest events in his life, the 34-year-old, a plumber by trade, arrived at Solitude early - to repair a leaking toilet.

McMullan also helped install the showers when new changing facilities were introduced back in 2009 and oversaw amendments to the old changing rooms.

The esteem in which he is held was reflected in the amount of familiar faces who made the trip to north Belfast to pay tribute to the man many say is the greatest player in the club's history.

Ross County's Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce, who won two Gibson Cups under McMullan's captaincy, made the journey from the Scottish highlands, with fellow Reds legends Mickey Donnelly and Barry Johnston also among a crowd which included former Housemartins and The Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton.

McMullan's ex-Solitude bosses Laurence Stitt, Marty Tabb, Liam Beckett, Eddie Patterson and Tommy Breslin were invited, while Larne manager David McAlinden - who, along with the main man, was part of the first Reds side ever to taste European success a decade ago - joined friend Declan O'Hara and Holland brothers Mark and Barry amid a carnival atmosphere generated by almost 2,000 fans.

Cliftonville - in a specially commissioned kit which boasted a nod to McMullan's boyhood favourites Arsenal - emerged and joined their Celtic counterparts in forming a guard of honour through which the Market man strode with sons Cillian (6), Ruari (3) and nine-month-old daughter Nainsi by his side as wife Geraldine looked on.

McMullan departed after an hour with his side trailing to Kelleher's first-half strike and the Hoops added further efforts through Millar and Hill before Celtic legend Danny McGrain made a pitchside presentation to the home skipper.

Belfast Telegraph


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