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Familiar foes to clash in Europa League decider

Joe Gormley scores Cliftonville’s vital first goal on Tuesday Joe Gormley scores Cliftonville’s vital first goal on Tuesday
By Kevin Herron

CLIFTONVILLE boss, Paddy McLaughlin insists that previous results against Glentoran will count for nothing when the sides met in Saturday evening’s Europa League playoff decider.

For the third time in four seasons, the decider will see Glentoran make the trip to Solitude on Saturday evening (5.30pm kick-off) with European football and the financial windfall that is associated with it, on the line.

The Reds have twice defeated the Glens in the previous final encounters including a last-gasp Joe Gormley goal last season and continued the trend this season with three injury-time winners against The Oval outfit.

However, McLaughlin insists that previous results are in the past and he hopes his side can produce a similar display to their semi-final win over Coleraine.

“They’ll be the same as us, everything that happens in the past stays in the past,” said McLaughlin.

“They’ll be looking to break that cycle of results and we’ll be looking to maintain it. It sets up for a great game, especially at Solitude and with the crowd behind us.

“It sets it up for an interesting game. It will be tough for both sides, but let’s just hope we can produce the same type of performance that we produced against Coleraine.”

New Glentoran boss, Mick McDermott is currently studying with McLaughlin on the Pro Licence course and McLaughlin gets the vibe that McDermott is confident the Glens can go onto scoop European football on Saturday.

“I’m currently doing my Pro Licence with their manager and I was chatting to him – I got the vibe off him that he was confident,” McLaughlin warned.

“It’s no surprise to me at all that they are in the final because he has done a fantastic job with them since he’s come in. He’s got some great results and the semi-final win was another one. Not too many people would have given Glentoran a chance.

“It might be a surprise to some, but it’s no surprise to me because they are a good side. They’re one we’ll respect, but it’s a team we can beat as well.”

Former Reds’ striker, Darren Murray was amongst the goals in the Glens’ semi-final win over Glenavon alongside team-mates Curtis Allen and Robbie McDaid.

Although McLaughlin acknowledges the prowess that the Glens possess, he is also confident of the Reds’ attacking arsenal.

“They’re definitely dangerous and can score goals – their strike force is top class,” McLaughlin acknowledged.

“They’re always chipping in with their fair share of goals right throughout the season every year. They’re going to be a threat, but so will we.”

McLaughlin will have to plan without the services of on-loan Glenavon midfielder, Niall Grace.

The central midfielder departed with a suspected dislocated elbow on Tuesday evening and with Ryan Catney and Rory Donnelly already suspended, McLaughlin will be forced to shuffle the pack on Saturday evening.

“Niall has a suspected dislocated elbow,” McLaughlin revealed.

“It was unfortunate. There was no malice in the tackle. It was the just the way he fell. It was a fair challenge and both players were committed, he just landed awkwardly and unfortunately for him it looks like it could be season over.

“‘Cats’ got a three-game ban and unfortunately his season is over as well. The squad has been tested, but that’s why we build up a squad.

“A couple of injuries and a couple of suspensions and we’re down to the bare bones. We’ve full belief in the boys coming in, that they can step into the breach and positions that are freed up.”

Although the financial windfall that comes with European qualification will be an incentive, McLaughlin is adamant that the carrot of European football is his side’s only incentive ahead of Saturday’s game.

“It is a great financial boost for either club whoever gets there and gets the job done on Saturday,” McLaughlin acknowledges.

“We’re only focused on the benefits of playing European football. It’s every player’s desire to play at the highest level and there’s no higher level than European football.

“It’s a great opportunity. We’re one game away from it and let’s hope on Saturday we can grasp that opportunity when it’s there.”

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