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Reds boss McLaughlin pleased with Europa League draw

Cliftonville, pictured celebrating their 2-0 extra-time Europa League Play-Off victory over Glentoran at Solitude last month, have been drawn against Barry Town United in the preliminary round of the competition with the first leg scheduled for later this month Cliftonville, pictured celebrating their 2-0 extra-time Europa League Play-Off victory over Glentoran at Solitude last month, have been drawn against Barry Town United in the preliminary round of the competition with the first leg scheduled for later this month
By Paddy Tierney

CLIFTONVILLE have been pitted against Barry Town United in the preliminary round of the Europa League Qualifying following Tuesday’s draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon.

The Reds will travel to Cardiff for the first leg at the Leckwith Stadium on Thursday, June 27 before hosting the return leg at Solitude on Thursday, July 4.

Barry Town are unable to use their ground at Jenner Park for European football and will play at Leckwith Stadium for their home leg. The home of Welsh Athletics is situated beside Cardiff City Stadium.

While the decisive leg of the Preliminary Round clash will be played at Solitude on July 4, Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin believes the club’s fans will have a big role to play in both ties.

“Logistically, it’s a great draw for our fans because we know we’ll be well backed over in Cardiff,” said McLaughlin.

“Having the second leg at home is something we hope to make the most of and our supporters will play a big part in that.

“They got us over the line when we were on the ropes in the play-offs and we want more of that kind of passion from them.

“I’m not just saying that to get them onside or anything. If you were at the semi-final against Coleraine, you saw the difference they made.

“The fans dragged us out of a hole by filling the players with belief and, home or away, I know they’ll be looking forward to getting behind the team in more big games.”

Barry Town finished third in last season’s JD Premier Division and are competing in Europe for the first time since their 2003 Champions League Qualifier against Vardar of Macedonia.

Cliftonville lost out to Welsh opposition back in 2011 when The New Saints ended their interest in the Europa League.

The Reds secured their Europa League place following a dramatic 2-0 extra-time victory over Glentoran at Solitude last month.

After a scoreless 90 minutes, extra-time goals from Joe Gormley and Conor McMenamin sealed a second consecutive play-off win for the Reds, along with the £200,000 prize fund.

However, the Irish League looks set to lose one of its three Europa League places following a decision by UEFA.

The governing body has ruled that associations ranked below 50th in the coefficients table will be allocated two spots for the 2020/21 season.

The loss of the Europa League slot will require a rethink by NIFL on how its Europa League places are won.

For now, Cliftonville’s pre-season preparations are in full swing now that they know who they will face in their first competitive game of the new season.

McLaughlin, who replaced Barry Gray at Solitude back in February, feels the Europa League draw will help focus the mind’s of his players.

“When there were six different teams in the draw, it can be hard to properly focus because you don’t know what exactly it is you’re preparing for,” he said.

“Now that we know it’ll be Barry Town, we can start our homework on them and they’ll be doing the same on us.

“It’s all about working as hard as we can on and off the pitch to make sure we’re ready for the games.

“In fairness to the players, their attitude since coming back in has been spot on but I’m sure they’ll be looking to kick on now that we know who we’re playing.”

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