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Young at heart

Cliftonville Manager Barry Gray is pleased to confirm some youthful additions to his senior squad ahead of the new Danske Bank Premiership season.

In addition to the promotion of Caoimhin McConnell from the Olympic team and the return of Daniel White from Newington, the Reds have also completed the signing of Rotherham United graduate Thomas Maguire.

All three impressed in pre-season appearances for the first-team, with McConnell among the goals against both Ballinamallard United and Swords Celtic and Maguire (more familiarly referred to as Trialist B) completing the scoring in last week’s 6-1 defeat of the Mallards at Solitude.

“It’s important for young players to know that they will always get a chance at a Club like Cliftonville,” explains Gray.

“This is a Club that has brought so many youth players through over the years and that’s something we’re all working very hard to continue. Caoimhin, Daniel and Thomas are all part of our first-team squad on merit, although they have all taken different routes to get there.

“Caoimhin has been part of the Olympic and Strollers teams over the last few years, Daniel had been at Cliftonville previously and is now back and Thomas has played in England for the last couple of seasons, which just goes to show we’re looking at so many different options when it comes to youth recruitment.”

Caoimhin McConnell scored an eye-catching goal against Ballinamallard

The newcomers join a squad that already boasts the talent of players such as Ross Lavery, Declan Dunne, the Donnelly trio of Rory, Jay and Aaron and even recently-returned utility man Conor McMenamin – all of whom enjoyed stints within our Football Development Centre in their formative years – and Gray is looking forward to the contributions they can make in the campaign ahead.

“Pre-season was tough for them because we were preparing for playing in Europe, so getting them minutes on the pitch was difficult,” he adds.

“But they have established themselves in training over the last six or seven weeks and, when we were able to get them introduced to friendly games, they made impressive impacts and were big parts of the general run of play. They haven’t looked out of place one bit and they give us some extra options.

“It’s up to them now to take the next step. That doesn’t come easy but, from what we’ve seen of them so far, they’re ready and willing to work hard. They can be the latest examples to any young player at any age level at Cliftonville that this is a Club with a pathway right through to the first-team and we will always pride ourselves on giving local players an opportunity.”