Following discussions between Cliftonville FC and Ryan Catney, it has been agreed by mutual consent that the 32-year-old will leave the Club at the end of the season, with Saturday’s North Belfast Derby against Crusaders potentially being his final Solitude outing in a Red shirt.
The tough-tackling midfielder joined from Lisburn Distillery 12 years ago and played an integral role during the most successful era in the history of Ireland’s Oldest Football Club – as well as setting a personal landmark on the European stage.
This weekend, he will be part of Cliftonville’s matchday panel for the final time when Crusaders visit Solitude for what is the Reds’ last home game of the Danske Bank Premiership season – and an occasion which supporters will no doubt want to use to acknowledge the immense contribution the former Reading youngster has made since he first put pen to paper with the Club.
“It was an honour to be part of so many successful teams at Cliftonville and it’s something I’ll always look back on with pride,” says Catney.
“I’m disappointed to be leaving but I have a lot of great moments to reflect on. I contributed as much as I could every time I was on the pitch and feel lucky to have been involved alongside so many great players.
“Cliftonville has been such a big part of my life and will always be a part of me. I’ll always be proud of what I achieved here.”
Chairman Gerard Lawlor explains: “It was with a very heavy heart that I had the final conversation with Ryan today.
“While we’ve held a number of discussions lately, to finally confirm the end was difficult.
“There are no words I can use to do justice to Ryan’s commitment, passion and determination. His love of this Club and his family make it hard not to stand in admiration.
“Not only do we lose Ryan – for hopefully only a short time – but his wife Stephanie and sons Mark, Lochlainn and Laochra.
“I hope our supporters come out in their numbers on Saturday to bid farewell to a Cliftonville legend, one of our own.”
Since making his debut in a League Cup clash with Limavady United on August 11, 2007, Catney has gone on to score 13 goals in 394 appearances for the Club, including the closing strike when Crusaders were beaten 4-0 in the 2013 League Cup Final.
Furthermore, he would go on to play in every decider as Cliftonville set a competition record by lifting the trophy on four consecutive occasions and also enjoyed County Antrim Shield success in 2008, 2011 and 2015.
Most significantly, of course, he was a vital member of the Reds side that was crowned Danske Bank Premiership Champions in both 2013 and 2014, during which time he formed a formidable central midfield partnership with Barry Johnston.
As well as contributing to Club history in Cliftonville’s famous Europa League victory over HNK Cibalia in 2010, he would also mark an individual milestone during this season’s encounter with Nordsjælland in the First Qualifying Round of the same competition when his appearance in the first leg at Solitude saw him reach 18 European outings for the Reds – more than any other player.
After making his Euro bow against FC Copenhagen at Mourneview Park in the summer of 2008, Catney would go on to represent Cliftonville against Cibalia (Croatia), CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria), The New Saints (Wales), Kalmar (Sweden), Celtic (Scotland), Debrecen (Hungary), Differdange (Luxembourg) and AEK Larnaca (Cyprus) before last summer’s encounter with the Danes.
Ninth in Cliftonville’s all-time appearances list, Catney’s first goal for the Reds came in an Irish Cup Fifth Round victory over Warrenpoint Town on January 17, 2009, while he was most recently on the scoresheet when former employers Distillery were defeated in the County Antrim Shield on September 18, 2018.
“The one against Glentoran in the Quarter Finals of the League Cup was probably my best goal,” he says. “I still get stick about it only going in because it was a windy night, but I’ll take it. I didn’t score too many but there were a few decent ones in there.”
On those appearance landmarks, he adds: “I don’t pay attention to too many records or stats but I did know about the European one when I played earlier this season.
“I think it was Ronan Scannell’s record I beat when I took part in that game and to be ninth on the overall appearances list makes me very proud too.”
He served under five Managers – Eddie Patterson, Tommy Breslin, Gerard Lyttle, Barry Gray and Paddy McLaughlin – during his time at Solitude and, despite all the on-field success, arguably best demonstrated his infectious will to win when he bravely battled back from an horrific double leg break in January 2017.
An injury that had the potential to end his career was regarded, quite simply, as another challenge he was determined to meet and, after strenuous rehabilitation in the aftermath of more than one date under the surgeon’s knife, Catney made his return to action in a pre-season friendly with Derry City last July – 17 months after breaking his leg in a North Belfast Derby with Crusaders at Seaview and just 10 days before setting that new European record against Nordsjælland.
In addition to thanking him for his distinguished and dedicated service over the last 12 years, Cliftonville Football Club – who hope to pay formal tribute in the close season – wishes Ryan and his family every success for the future and assures them that Solitude’s doors will always be open to them.