Belfast Telegraph

Quality of Crusaders squad means anything's possible at Seaview, says McGonigle

Five-star: Jamie McGonigle is already setting high standards
Five-star: Jamie McGonigle is already setting high standards

By Graham Luney

After smashing in five goals in a single game, including a three-minute hat-trick, Crusaders new boy Jamie McGonigle is entitled to believe that anything is possible.

The former Coleraine man's fab five strikes helped fire the Crues to an 8-1 win over Sirocco Works in the County Antrim Shield and it represented an emphatic start to their defence of the prize.

Stephen Baxter's men lifted the Shield and Irish Cup last season, but saw Linfield wrestle back the league championship and lift the League Cup.

The Blues achieved a stunning domestic clean sweep in 2006 but, given the fiercely competitive nature of the top flight today, it's a daunting challenge to match that feat.

Perhaps only a club with the squad depth of Linfield or Crusaders could achieve it, and McGonigle, while accepting it's not a realistic target, believes it's not mission impossible.

"It's obviously going to be tough, but with the squad we have I wouldn't say it's impossible," argued the 23-year-old ahead of tomorrow's Premiership clash with Glenavon at Seaview.

"If the mindset is we think it's not possible then we'd definitely not do it - but that's not how it is.

"It's a great squad we have. Everyone there is full of quality and they are all hard workers.

"It's brilliant for the competition for places which only makes everyone else better.

"Of course, the league is full of quality this year.

"Larne coming in have looked strong and the Glens have come good again as expected. It will be an interesting challenge for everyone."

McGonigle, who won the Irish Cup with the Bannsiders, is still getting used to his new surroundings on the Shore Road, though five goals in his first start should settle any early nerves.

The Crues are also flying, scoring goals for fun and leading the title charge.

If Baxter's men can stay on the front foot they can keep the pressure on their closest rivals.

The increased options gives Baxter an opportunity to keep his players fresh for the long haul.

Glenavon, however, are hungry to recover from a shaky start to their campaign and Seaview has been a happy hunting ground for them at times.

"I've settled in well I feel," added McGonigle. "All the lads have been brilliant with me, really welcoming.

"I've never scored five goals at senior level, maybe at youth level or at Dungiven Reserves, but definitely not in senior football, so hopefully that's the start of a good run for me."

At the age of 23, McGonigle is still young enough to carve out a professional career across the water, but he must produce fireworks for Crusaders before that dream can become a reality.

"Obviously every player's dream is to play in England or Scotland," added the former Northern Ireland Under-21 international.

"But at the minute I'm concentrating on my full-time deal with Crusaders to get myself fit and scoring goals and seeing where that takes us."

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