Belfast Telegraph

Play the game not the occasion, is McLaughlin's message to Reds

Paddy McLaughlin
Paddy McLaughlin

By Graham Luney

Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin has been a master at keeping his players grounded this season.

North Belfast bragging rights are on the line in today's derby at Seaview but the former Institute supremo will tell his men to play the game, not the occasion.

These games can be feisty thrillers and, as it's second v third in the Danske Bank Premiership, the tension and anxiety have rarely been higher.

An interesting feature of the Reds' season has been their powerful defence, though it will be tested today on the Shore Road.

Only Linfield have a better defensive record than the Reds, who could go top if they win and the Blues lose at The Oval.

It's McLaughlin's first taste of a north Belfast Boxing Day showdown and he goes into it with a spring in his step following the 1-0 win over Coleraine.

"It's just three points at stake like every other game - the reality is you still get only three points for winning a derby game or a Boxing Day game," said McLaughlin, who reiterated that second-half substitute Thomas Maguire's subsequent withdrawal last Saturday was not a reflection on his performance.

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"We asked Thomas to go on and cause havoc and that's exactly what he did, and he played a big role in the goal.

"It's because of him that we had something to hold on to and defend, which is why I brought Seanna Foster on and moved Conor McDermott in as the third man in the middle - so Thomas definitely shouldn't look at his substitution as a criticism of how he played. Far from it."

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