Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville's wanted man Rory Donnelly keeping cool

By Graham Luney

Rory Donnelly has reassured Cliftonville fans that he will not let cross-channel speculation shatter his incredible domestic form.

The 19-year-old has become the glittering star of the Carling Premiership and his astonishing goalscoring exploits have had top clubs across the water scrambling for his signature.

After scoring 14 goals this campaign and getting his hands on the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night, the 19-year-old must be waiting to wake up and tuck into his cornflakes.

But the Red Army who chanted his name at the Oval know they are witnessing the development of a special young talent.

It seems the only thing missing from Donnelly’s career is the full-time professional guidance to allow him to become the player he can be.

A quick glance at the highlights of his goals, including the wonder strikes against Linfield, demonstrate his talent and potential.

Time will tell whether Donnelly has the character, mental toughness and desire to thrive in the full-time game and perhaps even as a Northern Ireland international.

League One outfit Brentford put in an improved offer for him after the 2-1 Shield final success over Glentoran but the Reds are in the fortunate position of sitting back while a bidding war takes place around their golden boy.

Last season’s Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year Stuart Dallas was also linked with cross-channel clubs but a move failed to materialise and his manager Stephen Baxter was concerned that transfer talk would go to the player’s head.

Now that danger hangs over the head of Donnelly though there are no signs he’s about to go into a shell.

“I’m not concentrating on all that talk,” said Donnelly. “I’m concentrating on my game and helping the team. Whenever the time comes to make a decision on my future. I’ll turn my thoughts to it then. We have great players here at the club who are teaching me a lot of things so all I can do is keep working hard.

“Chris Scannell, the manager (Tommy Breslin) and the whole team have really helped my game improve. With regards to my future I’ll just wait and see what happens. We have won 12 games on the bounce now and our priority is to keep that going.

“Everyone is pulling strongly together.”

Donnelly, who travels with his side to Dungannon Swifts tomorrow, is content to bask in the glory of netting Shield glory.

“It feels fantastic,” he added. “I’m so happy for the team. It was great that Joe (Gormley) came on and scored the winner.

“Everybody worked hard and played very well, I think we deserved it. It’s important now that we keep on building for the future after this.

“I thought the fans were fantastic and it was like having a 12th man. A lot of credit must go to our manager, Tommy Breslin, who made great substitutions in the final. I would like to thank Tommy for giving me a chance and believing in me.”

Martin Donnelly, who netted a penalty in the Shield final, says the Reds can keep challenging for silverware even if Rory leaves the Solitude stage.

“Rory is a different class,” said the former Crusaders winger. “He has everything. In the last few games he has been awesome and I hope he does go over (across the water) and do us proud. It will be a big loss for us but we’ll push on and Rory will get the chance he deserves.”

The dozen clubs desperate for red-hot Rory

There are believed to be 12 teams from across the water interested in acquiring the services of Cliftonville hot-shot, Rory Donnelly.

Here is a breakdown of the clubs rumoured to be after the Reds’ prized asset.

BRENTFORD: The Bees, in League One, are in pole position to land the player as they have put offers on the table. Their manager Uwe Rosler was at the Oval on Tuesday night.

CHELSEA: Premier League giants are struggling under the guidance of new chief Andre Villas-Boas.

SWANSEA CITY: Premier League new boys City are 13th in the top flight and boss, Carnlough man Brendan Rodgers, was also at the Shield decider.

EVERTON: The Merseysiders have sent a scout to watch the golden boy. David Moyes’ men are ninth in the Premier League.

QPR: Neil Warnock’s Premier League new boys are 11th position in the top flight.

SUNDERLAND: The struggling Premier League side are without a boss after Steve Bruce’s sacking, though Northern Ireland legend Martin O’Neill could take charge.

ST JOHNSTONE: With former Northern Ireland captain Steve Lomas now in charge, assisted by former international team-mate Tommy Wright, the Saints are sitting fourth in the SPL.

KILMARNOCK: Under the guidance of former Coleraine and Ballymena United chief Kenny Shiels, Killie sit seventh in the SPL.

BURNLEY: The mid-table Championship club (14th) are managed by Eddie Howe.

LEEDS UNITED: The Elland Road giants, managed by Simon Grayson are fifth in the Championship.

PETERBOROUGH: Sitting 13th in the Championship and managed by Sir Alex Ferguson’s son, Darren.

BIRMINGHAM CITY: Eleventh in the Championship, the Blues are under the guidance of Chris Hughton and also in the Europa League.

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