Not only did Jay Donnelly’s last-gasp strike see Cliftonville kick the new Danske Bank Premiership programme off with a dramatic victory over Glentoran yesterday, the man wearing the number 21 shirt also helped preserve a remarkable record that will now stretch to 21 years.
For not since 1998 have the Reds lost on the opening day of a League season, with Portadown’s 2-0 success at Solitude the last time the Club suffered defeat in their maiden outing of a new campaign – although it’s arguable that a torrential downpour throughout the 2008/09 curtain-raiser contributed to this ongoing run, thanks to a Windsor Park clash against Linfield being abandoned with the hosts a goal to the good.
Furthermore, though Joe Gormley still needs 13 goals to break Kevin McGarry’s all-time Cliftonville record of 170, his equaliser at The Oval was his 108th Premiership strike for the Reds, edging him ahead of McGarry, who previously led the Club’s League goal charts with 107.
Yesterday also saw no fewer than three players make their debuts for Cliftonville, with goalkeeper Richard Brush completing 90 minutes between the sticks and new recruits Thomas Maguire and Daniel White making telling contributions from the bench on a day that also saw Ryan Curran and Conor McMenamin handed their Premiership bows.
Cliftonville’s opening day results
1998/99: Cliftonville 0-2 Portadown
1999/00: Cliftonville 3-2 Newry Town
2000/01: Ballymena United 2-2 Cliftonville
2001/02: Coleraine 0-0 Cliftonville
2002/03: Cliftonville 1-0 Newry Town
2003/04: Cliftonville 3-2 Limavady United
2004/05: Cliftonville 1-0 Lisburn Distillery
2005/06: Ards 0-1 Cliftonville
2006/07: Linfield 0-3 Cliftonville
2007/08: Cliftonville 2-2 Linfield
2008/09: Ballymena United 1-5 Cliftonville
2009/10: Ballymena United 0-1 Cliftonville
2010/11: Newry City 0-1 Cliftonville
2011/12: Cliftonville 1-0 Carrick Rangers
2012/13: Cliftonville 2-1 Glenavon
2013/14: Cliftonville 4-2 Ards
2014/15: Cliftonville 0-0 Glentoran
2015/16: Glenavon 0-1 Cliftonville
2016/17: Ards 2-2 Cliftonville
2017/18: Cliftonville 6-3 Ards
2018/19: Glentoran 1-2 Cliftonville