Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey: Cliftonville's Joe Gormley must focus on amazing opportunity at Peterborough United

By David Jeffrey

My wish for Joe Gormley has finally come to fruition.

I’ve been asking for a year now, when will a team in England or Scotland take a punt on the top striker in the Irish League?

Peterborough United answered that question emphatically yesterday by agreeing a deal with Cliftonville and I couldn’t be more pleased for Joe.

He fully deserves his crack at full time professional football.

In my mind, Joe was the Player of the Season last term. Scoring 41 goals in a team that struggled for large parts is an incredible feat.

But with this chance comes a commitment from Joe.

It’s his big break and he must not become a player who is good enough to make it across the water but not good enough to stay there.

It will be tough. I know from first hand experience how difficult it is to succeed in the full time game.

But I hope Joe looks at the likes of Stuart Dallas and even his good friend Liam Boyce as inspiration. Both Stuart and Liam didn’t have it easy when they first moved across to Brentford and Ross County respectively. Sure, last Christmas there was talk about Liam coming home to Linfield.

But Stuart and Liam knuckled down, made sacrifices and they are now reaping the rewards.

Joe has immense talent, but that alone will not be enough to help him along in the professional game.

He needs to make sure his head is right.

I want to know what Joe’s ambition is? I want to see how he fares when he doesn’t have the security blanket of Cliftonville wrapped around him.

He needs to be ruthless, pushing himself to the extreme and developing a selfish mentality. This will be a whole new way of life for him.

He has the ability to score goals, but how will he cope in a different environment and at a level he has never experienced before.

If there is one person who Joe can look to as an example of how to prosper in England, then it’s Gareth McAuley.

What he has achieved on a personal level, moving from the Irish League to Lincoln and then progressing through the divisions to be a top defender in the Premier League and with Northern Ireland has been a pleasure to watch.

Now Joe must try and replicate that.

International football could also be on the horizon if he does well. Manager Michael O’Neill went out of his way recently to explain to Joe that if he got himself fixed up with a professional club, did well, then he would certainly come into his thinking.

That should be a massive incentive for any player and I really hope Joe takes his chance.

And with Joe gone, I really wonder how Cliftonville will cope without him.

They lost Liam Boyce last year and now Joe.

There are whisperings that Rory Donnelly may return to Cliftonville.

That would certainly be interesting.

But for now the focus must be on Joe and his wonderful opportunity.

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