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A work of start

Barry Gray toasted Cliftonville’s “electric” beginning to yesterday’s Tennent’s Irish Cup Semi Final victory over Loughgall.

Ahead through Joe Gormley after just 22 seconds, the Reds doubled their advantage when Rory Donnelly netted shortly afterwards and, though the Villagers pulled one back in the aftermath of Gormley’s stunning second strike, Donnelly would complete the scoring by making it 4-1 ahead of the interval – and the duo naturally headed the Manager’s list when it came to dishing out praise afterwards.

“We wanted the job done as quickly as possible – and, as it turned out, the game was over after 25 minutes,” says Gray.

“We were in a hurry and wanted to make a statement that we were here to win it. The boys deserve all the credit after that performance.

“We were electric in the top half of the pitch. I don’t think any defence in the country would have stopped (Gormley and Donnelly). That’s just them, that’s what they do. They were fantastic. It’s not through coaching or management, we just let them do what they are good at and that’s putting the ball in the net.

“They have the knack of scoring spectacular goals and Joe’s second was top drawer. They keep pulling little tricks out of the bag.”

Cliftonville will now face Coleraine in the May 5 decider and, much as he’s looking forward to the occasion, Gray is determined that his men will retain focus and intensity in their remaining Danske Bank Premiership fixtures.

“We’re now in the Final, it’s up to us to finish the job,” he says.

“1979 is remembered by everyone – it’s in the history books at Cliftonville, but it’s my job to make sure that the class of 2018 replace it and we’ve taken a massive step towards that.

“But before we even start thinking about the Final, we have five difficult League games to take care of.”