Belfast Telegraph

We'll learn valuable lessons from Euro loss: McGuinness

By Keith Bailie

Cliftonville defender Jason McGuinness believes his new side will learn a lot from Thursday night's heartbreaking Europa League second qualifying round defeat at the hands of AEK Larnaca.

The Reds raced into a 2-0 lead, with McGuinness grabbing the first goal and Jay Donnelly doubling the advantage, before the Cypriot side hit back with three second-half efforts to secure a 3-2 first-leg win.

Although there was some disappointment at the full-time whistle, McGuinness thinks the Reds have much to be proud of.

"After the game, there were a lot of disappointed lads in the dressing room, me included," he said. "At 2-0 up we felt confident of winning the game but a crazy 10 minutes took it away from us. To be fair to them, they showed their class in the second-half.

"We could have been more streetwise. I think we need to learn a few things from this experience, but at the same time there were plenty of positives.

"We have a lot of quality players in this squad. Jay Donnelly can cause problems for any defence. I think if we go out there in the second-leg with a positive attitude then we can give them another scare. We have given ourselves a chance."

Should they take that chance then a third round tie against Russian side Spartak Moscow will be the reward for Gerard Lyttle's men.

The Reds travel to Cyprus for Thursday's second-leg believing they can overcome that 3-2 deficit, but McGuinness already has one eye on the new Premiership season as the north Belfast side look to win their first title since 2014.

The 34-year-old is already a legend in the League of Ireland, having played for Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic.

Perhaps it's not surprising then that astute manager Lyttle handed the Dubliner the captain's armband for the upcoming season.

McGuinness said: "It's a privilege to be the captain of Cliftonville.

"It's something I'm happy to do. There are a lot of leaders in our dressing room, but I'm hopeful I can help guide them.

"Everybody wants to kick on this season. We've only been back for three weeks and we're already playing great football. I think we will be very competitive this season.

"I had one or two options down in the League of Ireland but once I spoke to the manager I decided Cliftonville was the right club for me.

"He's an ambitious manager and he convinced me to sign for the club. This is a fantastic club and it's an honour to be a part of it."

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