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Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin believes healthy competition for places will spur his players on

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Paddy McLaughlin

Paddy McLaughlin

Paddy McLaughlin

The intensity with which Cliftonville attacked their European mission can stand them in good stead for a new Danske Bank Premiership programme — so says boss Paddy McLaughlin.

The Reds may have exited the continental stage at the first hurdle but their performances home and away against DAC belied the comically harsh 5-1 aggregate scoreline and gave their manager plenty to be positive about on the eve of a new domestic season.

“The boys were superb in both legs and I think our supporters have seen a glimpse of what we can be capable of,” says McLaughlin.

“We played very well out in Slovakia against a really good team. We got the hardest draw out of every Irish League side but we went over there and gave it a really good rattle.

“We lost 2-1 which kept the tie alive coming back to Solitude but, despite playing really, really well at home, we lost the game. I’m still not sure if anyone’s worked out how that match ended in a 3-0 defeat but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

“Their finishing was exceptional but our performances had a lot of plus points and anyone who was at the games will have seen that.

“It’s easier said than done but if we can carry that form into our own League then we’ve every chance of having a good season. The key to how well we played in Europe was the hard work and good attitude from the players — and they’ll need to maintain that.

“You can’t drop your standards just because you’re playing such and such from down at the bottom of our division. Every team we play will demand that we give our maximum and if we do that, we’ll put ourselves in a position to win games.”

Though McLaughlin saw Aaron Donnelly, Daniel Kearns and Paul O’Neill join Larne in addition to Conor McDermott signing for Coleraine and loanee goalkeeper Luke McNicholas returning to parent club Sligo Rovers — whom he has since helped enoy significant European progress of their own — he has strengthened his panel with the arrivals of Fynn Talley, Jamie Robinson, Gerard Storey, Ronan Hale and Stephen Mallon, as well as signing Luke Turner up following his loan from Aberdeen last term.

“There’s healthy competition and everyone’s hungry to work hard to get into the team,” adds the Solitude supremo.

“We’ve shaped up well throughout pre-season and in Europe, so now it’s about making sure we do the same when the League comes about because that’s what you’re judged on year on year.”


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