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Harry’s game for the challenge

Having supported Portadown in his youth, Harry Fay admits he was “gutted” the last time Cliftonville won the Irish Cup – but the Reds’ Assistant Manager says he knows all too well how much the competition means to the Club’s fans.

As the countdown to Saturday’s Final showdown with Coleraine continues, Fay recalls: “When Barry (Gray) and I first came to Cliftonville, we had a meeting with supporters over in the Social Club and one of the first things anyone said to us was ‘Irish Cup’ – it was there for us from the first moment.

“We’ve obviously come in as outsiders from Cliftonville but it doesn’t take you long to feel like part of the family here. This is a proper Football Club with good people the whole way through it and they care very deeply about it and about eachother.

“Once you’re part of things here, you find out very quickly how much it means to people and what success would mean to them. Right the way back at the start of the year, the Irish Cup was the first thing people spoke to us about and there’s a real hunger among the fans to end that long run without winning it.

“We’d love to do it for them and it would be a really special achievement if we could. It’s obviously going to be a very, very tough game but we’re preparing for it the best we can and it’s all about asking the players to play the game and not the occasion – you have to go out and perform like you would want to in any other match.”

And on the Reds’ 1979 defeat of his hometown side, Fay adds: “I remember it well, I was gutted! It was even worse because it was someone from Portadown, Tony Bell, who scored the winning goal. It was a great day for Cliftonville and hopefully this Saturday will be as well.”