Conor McMenamin says Cliftonville are looking forward to throwing off the shackles when they host Ballinamallard United in this evening’s pre-season friendly (7.45pm).
All of the team’s fixtures to date this summer gave heavy focus to defensive discipline as Barry Gray’s side prepared for, and then took on, the Europa League challenges provided by Nordsjælland but new boy McMenamin can’t wait for the Reds to express their more natural instincts.
“We obviously treated the European games differently to any matches we’d have in the Irish League and we showed our opponents a lot of respect,” he explains.
“We didn’t really know what to expect in the first leg and it maybe took us a while to settle down and get into the game but we did well once we grew into it. The Ballinamallard game will be different and I’d say everyone’s looking forward to going out and expressing ourselves a bit more.”
Though goals are never a certainty in football, the sides’ last two meetings should certainly whet the appetite for fans ahead of tonight’s renewal of acquaintances.
Back in November last year, the Reds coasted to a 5-0 home success courtesy of goals from Jay Donnelly, Joe Gormley (2) and Daniel Hughes (2), while January delivered something of a horror show as Cliftonville found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-4 scoreline at Ferney Park – where current Reds ace Ryan Curran was twice on target for the Mallards.
He won’t be the only player in line to face a former employer this evening, however, with namesake Chris also in contention as well as Ducks goalkeeper John Connolly, who was a Solitude favourite between 2006 and 2012, even famously scoring a penalty in a Premiership victory over Linfield in 2010.
McMenamin concludes: “A lot of our training this summer was about keeping shape and being compact but we have a lot of attacking players who want to go out and really get at teams, so it’ll be good to set up differently and play a different way.”
Cliftonville v Ballinamallard United