Improving Glens will be a tough task for Reds, admits McLaughlin
Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin says the huge strides Glentoran have made under Mick McDermott's guidance means this evening's Co Antrim Shield semi-final is too close to call.
The Reds may be flying high at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership but the fifth-placed Glens are unbeaten in their last six games and McLaughlin insists both sides have extra motivation to go on and book their place in January's decider.
"We're going well in the league but, being realistic, there are a lot of teams in this division who have been doing what they've been doing for a few years and are well down the line in terms of putting the work in to challenge for trophies - we've been going for six months," he says.
"Glentoran are just the same. They've had big investment down there and it's still very early on in terms of where they want to get to, but Mick McDermott is a very experienced manager who's done a great job in his short time there.
"They'll see getting into a final and having an opportunity to win some silverware this early as a way of marking the progress they've made, but you could say the same about us. We'd love the chance to go on and play in the final but we have a very, very hard match to come against Glentoran before we can think about that."
In tonight's other Shield semi-final, Championship side H&W Welders will be looking to take advantage of a wounded Ballymena United at the Showgrounds. Boss David Jeffrey has seen his squad disrupted by injuries and they could do with a confidence boost after going on an eight match winless run.
The Welders, under the guidance of George O'Boyle and Colin McIlwaine, have won five of their 16 league outings this season but will be highly motivated to spring a surprise and progress to the final.
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Former Northern Ireland international O'Boyle said: "As a club we are a work in progress after a big turnaround of players in the summer. We have brought in younger blood and it takes time for a team to gel but we have seen glimpses of their potential in the cup competitions.
"Ballymena United are a terrific side and we will face Premiership quality players so we won't get carried away.
"But we are ready for the game and feeling confident after beating Carrick and Ards in the Shield as well as Warrenpoint in the League Cup."
Meanwhile, Linfield have signed former Shamrock Rovers right back Ethan Boyle on an 18-month deal.