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Winner takes all in Cliftonville-Glentoran showdown for £200k bonanza

 

By Graham Luney

Rival managers Ronnie McFall and Barry Gray will issue their final rallying calls to the players today as Glentoran and Cliftonville fight for the European riches that can steer either club to success. A dramatic season will reach a thrilling climax at Solitude but only one club will get their hands on the £200,000 cash windfall that comes with a place in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

The Glens are on a high after a superb 4-3 comeback victory over Linfield at Windsor Park and caretaker boss McFall hopes a turbulent season for the club can finish with an unexpected cash bonanza.

But Reds chief Gray, whose side endured Irish Cup final heartbreak a week ago, are just as desperate to feature in the June 19 qualifier. "Not only is the prestige of playing in Europe on offer, but the financial rewards are unbelievable," said Gray.

"The board have backed me throughout the whole season, so it would be nice to give something back to them and it would help take the pressure off them to a certain degree."

McFall, who will step down from his caretaker role after the game, said: "We've achieved nothing yet.

"The reward is a massive one and we will give it everything to secure European football."

While both clubs are hungry to hit the European jackpot, Glentoran in particular are in need of a financial boost with a new manager set to come in and embark on a huge rebuilding job.

That task will be a little easier if there's an additional £200k in the budget to plan for the future.

The club's search for a new manager has been far from smooth, with top targets Rodney McAree and Colin Nixon both deciding to agree new deals with Dungannon Swifts and Ards.

Ex-Swifts boss Darren Murphy and former Rangers player Bob Malcolm have been linked with the Oval post.

"I think this is still an attractive job for a manager," said McFall. "Glentoran is still the second biggest club in the league.

"The club isn't in the best of places at the minute, but they are still the second biggest club, and you only get a job like this if the club is in this position - if Glentoran are going well the manager will still be there, if they're not the manager goes.

"It's an ideal opportunity for someone to put their mark on it."

The Glens finished outside the top six for the second successive season - although their seventh-place finish was an improvement on last season when they came in ninth.

It is now five years since the club's league position was good enough to gain automatic qualification for Europe and McFall admits the squad is currently not good enough to do any better.

"The squad isn't equipped to challenge," he added. "There is a job to be done, but when I took over here at the start they were bottom of the league, so it's an ideal opportunity for someone who wants to progress their career."

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