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Time for elevenses

The 2018/19 season might be just one game old, but Thursday’s Europa League opener with Nordsjælland delivered no shortage of landmarks and trivia – with the number 11 shirt making its own little piece of history.

Not only were the Danes the 150th different opponent that Cliftonville have faced in competitive action, the Solitude clash also extended the list of players to have represented the Club in Europe to 130 thanks to the continental debuts handed to Brian Neeson, Garry Breen, Jamie Harney, Ryan Curran, Liam Bagnall and Conor McMenamin – with the latter arguably laying claim to the milestone by virtue of appearing last on the teamsheet.

By contrast, 62nd minute substitute Ryan Catney’s introduction delivered both closure to 17 months sidelined by injury and a new Club record 18 appearances in UEFA competition (a decade to the week since his first, also against Danish opposition in the form of Copenhagen), surpassing the previous landmark registered by Ronan Scannell in the Reds’ Champions League encounter with Debrecen in July 2014.

Another footnote of the occasion was Rory Donnelly’s first outing in his new number 11 shirt, making him the third Donnelly in the Club’s history to step out with that figure on his back.

All of Martin Donnelly’s 278 appearances between 2011 and 2017 came in the 11 jersey and, though squad numbers pre-dated his career, former skipper Mickey Donnelly – who played a record 611 times – was synonyous with the number he sported in the later years of his time at Solitude.

While Donnelly has been a familiar name on Cliftonville teamsheets in recent seasons (with Rory, Jay and Aaron currently on the books and Martin and Gary having departed over the last eight months), supporters might be interested to learn that, prior to Mickey’s arrival at the Club in the 1990s, only one Donnelly had ever previously played for the Reds – however, given that the A Donnelly who made two appearances in the 1907/08 campaign was a goalkeeper, it’s highly unlikely he began the surname’s association with the number 11 shirt!