Irish League devastated by loss of much-loved Tommy Breslin
The Irish League community expressed its deep shock and sadness last night at the passing of former Cliftonville manager and Reds legend Tommy Breslin.
Breslin, who led the Reds to eight trophies in a glorious four-year spell including back-to-back Irish Premiership titles in 2013 and 2014, passed away while on holiday in Spain. He was 58.
Cliftonville stated they were "devastated" to learn of the "sudden and untimely death" of their Solitude hero.
Managers, players and officials were at Windsor Park last night for the launch of the new Danske Bank Premiership season but the occasion was overshadowed by the tragic news of Tommy's passing.
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter said: "To say that I'm devastated is an understatement.
"Tommy Breslin was a gentleman of our game, a north Belfast rival on the football pitch but a very, very close personal friend of mine throughout that period.
"He and I got on fabulously well, we had lots of conversations at the game and away from it. We never had a cross word and I am shocked and devastated by this news.
"My sincere condolences to the family. We have lost a great in our game."
Baxter added: “What he achieved with Cliftonville was awesome. He moulded a team that was simply superb and dominated for a period. You think of players like Boyce, Gormley, Catney and Johnston, leaders who played a beautiful brand of football as they won titles. He will be deeply missed by all.
“At this moment in time it’s devastation for his family and my heart goes out to them.
“On a football pitch you just didn’t exchange a cross word. He fought for his team but the warmth of handshake was amazing and we got on really well. We talked about the pressures of the game and we were the best of friends, despite the great rivalry. It’s such a huge loss to the game but a much bigger loss to his family.”
Breslin took charge of the Reds in 2011 and ended the club’s 15-year wait for a league title in 2013, a Championship they successfully defended.
The former midfielder added three League Cups, two County Antrim Shields and a Charity Shield to his honours list before leaving the role in September 2015.
He also took temporary charge at Solitude in April 2017 after Gerard Lyttle’s departure from the club. His remarkable achievements made him the north Belfast side’s most successful boss in their 140-year history.
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney expressed his shock at the loss of a good friend.
“I had the pleasure of doing the Pro Licence course with Tommy and really got to know him through that,” said Kearney.
“He was probably one of my closest allies in the league in relation to bouncing things off. I’m devastated and very disappointed at this news.
“You couldn’t meet a nicer man.
“He achieved great things at Cliftonville but when something like this happens it’s about the person and all the people he engaged with and touched.
“To be honest, it’s very hard to take in the news."