A sizeable number of Cliftonville’s players won’t have too far to travel when the team begin their European warm-ups with tonight’s friendly against Derry City (7pm) – however Manager Paddy McLaughlin insists he hasn’t been targeting his fellow townsfolk on purpose.
The Creggan man’s backroom staff of Brian Donaghey and Conleth McCrudden also hail from the Maiden City, with Derry natives Ryan Curran, Aaron Harkin and Conor McDermott joining Ronan Doherty (Carndonagh) and Plumbridge son Jamie Harney in an ever-increasing north-west representation at Solitude.
“It’s not something I’ve done on purpose!” laughs McLaughlin, whose side return to action less than five weeks after securing Europa League qualification.
“Derry has a reputation for producing strong football talent and it’s somewhere I know very well, so any player who becomes available and who we think can improve our squad is always someone I’ll be interested in signing. It’s just a bit of a coincidence how it’s gone so far.”
Brandywell Stadium is, of course, just as familiar to the boss, whose Institute side – including Harkin and Doherty – utilised the venue last term, while loan recruit McDermott is poised to line out against his parent Club 13 days before the Reds lock horns with Barry Town United.
“It’s a great pitch there which will suit the style of football we want to play and I know the players are looking forward to getting back at it,” he adds.
“Their attitude has been great since the day I came in the door and even this summer, after just two weeks off, they’ve reported back and worked very hard on the training pitch.
“Derry are a good side who are going very well under Declan Devine, so it will be a good test for us and it’s exactly the sort of game we need with European football coming up.
“Our new signings should all be involved and it’s just another step up in our preparations for facing Barry later in the month.”
Under 16s: Free