Belfast Telegraph

Conor McMenamin credits new Cliftonville boss for his fresh desire

 

Head high: Conor McMenamin beats Glentoran's John Herron in the air
Head high: Conor McMenamin beats Glentoran's John Herron in the air
Pops the cork on Cliftonville's champagne celebrations

By Alex Mills

Cliftonville goal hero Conor McMenamin admits new boss Paddy McLaughlin has helped kickstart his football ambitions.

The versatile McMenamin hit a killer second goal to snuff out the threat of his former club, Glentoran, in Saturday's Europa League play-off final at Solitude.

It not only punched the Reds' ticket to European football next season - but also guaranteed the club a cool £200,000.

It must be said, it's a game that will not live long in the memory. It was littered with late tackles, misplaced passes, injury stoppages and basic elementary errors.

It was Joe Gormley who lifted the gloom, shooting the Reds in front seconds before the end of the first period of extra-time.

He gobbled up a punt through the middle from Aaron Harkin and, having spotted Dwayne Nelson rush from his line, the lethal striker managed to nudge the ball over the stranded stop stopper before poking home.

McMenamin then sparked scenes of raw emotion on the terraces by killing the game stone dead with his goal seconds before the finish.

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He picked the pocket of a dithering Conor Pepper and, after a lung-busting 40-yard dash, he sweetly dinked the ball over the diving Nelson. The red half of the ground erupted.

"Glentoran are a good side and we knew It would be a battle," said McMenamin. "They probably had the best of the chances, but we knew the chances would come for us.

"When one did arrive, it fell to the right man. Joe's unbelievable when he gets into that position. And, thankfully, I managed to put the icing on the cake by dinking one over the goal goalkeeper to seal the win.

"I didn't have much left in my legs because I was cramping up a bit. I don't know how I got there. I had a chance before the goal and I probably should have dinked it, so I know what I was going to do the second time."

McMenamin, who also bagged a double in the Reds' Europa League semi-final win against Coleraine in midweek, credits McLaughlin for his resurgence in form.

He added: "Since Paddy has come to the club, he has been great to me personally. He has given me a belief and the confidence to go and play.

"I didn't know quite where I was. I didn't know my best position, and I just couldn't get a run of games in the side. I was in the team and I was out of the team.

"Since Paddy took over, he has put an arm around me and told me how good a player he thinks I am.

"I'm just glad I was able to repay the faith Paddy showed in me. It will be a privilege for me to represent this club in Europe."

McMenamin admits it was vital for the club to get their hands on the lucrative pot of gold in prize money.

"Our objective was to get over the line and get into Europe," he added. "We are aware of Larne and Crusaders moving to full-time football and we are trying to keep up and edge closer to them.

"A big pay day like today will help us get there. I'm sure Paddy's budget will benefit from it."

It was Mick McDermott's first defeat since taking charge of the Glens almost two months ago. He admits his boys never hit the heights achieved in the semi-final win over Glenavon.

"It was an under-par performance from most departments," he said. "The players know it and the coaching staff know it.

"We'll go away and assess it and we'll see what went well and what didn't go well.

"When we took over six or seven weeks ago to even consider being in the Europa League play-off final would probably been classed as a miracle.

"There has been a lot of positivity around the club in recent weeks, so hopefully, there is lot to look forward to in the future."

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