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Licence to thrill

Paddy McLaughlin was delighted to cap an energy-sapping week by overseeing Cliftonville’s return to Europe courtesy of yesterday’s Europa League Play-Off Final victory over Glentoran.

The Reds triumphed courtesy of Extra Time strikes from Joe Gormley and Conor McMenamin just days after a marathon Semi-Final defeat of Coleraine and, as well as paying tribute to his players’ fitness levels, McLaughlin outlined his backroom team’s contribution to securing continental qualification.

“Our preparation this week wasn’t ideal from a personal point of view because I’ve been on my Pro Licence course all week and the rules say you have to be there, there’s no leaving early or ducking out,” he explains.

“I’ve not been in the house this week. It’s been working on the course and then coming to Solitude for the matches which isn’t how I would have wanted it, but I’ve put my trust in the staff and in the players to look after things properly and they’ve done that. They deserve so much credit for all the work they’ve done this week and for the players to play 120 minutes twice in a matter of days at the end of a long season and still win them both is testament to them. They’ve done themselves and the Club proud.”

With less than a month until the draw for the Preliminary Round of the Europa League, there’s little chance of McLaughlin’s hectic lifestyle slowing down – not that the boss is complaining.

“It’s fantastic for the Club and for the Board and the Chairman,” he adds.

“It’s pay back to Gerard Lawlor for bringing me here. He took a chance on me and hopefully I’ve repaid him in some way.

“But it’s all about the players, I can’t thank them enough. They’ve given me everything for the last three months.

“I’ve brought them in for an extra night’s training. No one likes doing hard running and tough training sessions but, fair play to those boys, they never turned anything down.

“It has been fully justified because all their hard work was rewarded.

“Now we’ve got European football to look forward to and all the excitement that goes with it. I’m delighted for everyone here and it’s great that we’ve given our supporters something to celebrate in the final match of the season.”