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McConnell sets benchmark

Though last night’s League Cup Quarter Final defeat to Dungannon Swifts was a bitterly disappointing experience for everyone at Cliftonville, one player is likely to remember the occasion for a particularly notable distinction.

Caoimhin McConnell, who emerged from the bench in the 12th minute of extra-time, came on to make his seventh appearance for the Club – just hours after scoring for Northern Ireland Under 19s in their European Qualifier victory over Kazakhstan at Shamrock Park.

Trailing when Lev Skvortsov put the visitors ahead after just two minutes, Northern Ireland – for whom Portadown’s Reds loanee Declan Dunne was between the sticks – levelled courtesy of Harry Robinson just minutes after McConnell’s half-time introduction.

Arman Kenessov would restore Kazakhstan’s lead only for McConnell to make it 2-2 with just under a quarter of an hour remaining when he produced a confident finish after being teed up by fellow sub Jordan Jenkins.

Alfie McCalmont would subsequently register the winner for the hosts, whose margin of victory was not sufficient for them to make progress to the competition’s Elite Round, before McConnell was whisked back to Solitude, where he made his second substitute appearance of the day when he replaced Conor McDonald for the final 18 minutes of what would ultimately prove a frustrating night for the Reds.