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Young at art

Paddy McLaughlin says the opportunity to assess some of Cliftonville’s young stars during pre-season could prove invaluable during the forthcoming campaign.

Inexperienced line-ups have recorded commanding victories over St James Swifts and Cookstown Youth in recent weeks, while a handful of underage talents featured in Saturday’s defeat of Aquinas.

The Reds continue their preparations with tonight’s friendly against Crumlin United at Mill Road (7.30pm) as McLaughlin and his coaching staff look to hone things ahead of next month’s Danske Bank Premiership curtain-raiser with Coleraine.

“The future is always in youth,” says the Manager.

“I was speaking to Brendan Lynch this week and we reckon we’ve handed debuts to 12 young players during pre-season so far and they have done very well. We had Saucy Brown on the scoresheet on Saturday at 15 years of age. It says a lot about the work that goes on in the Academy and all the coaching they do that we have a player who can come in at the age of 15 and do a job for us.

“It’s going to be a long, hard, gruelling season, where the best teams play more than 50 matches. That can take its toll on players and nobody is going to play in every single one, so it’s important to know the up-and-coming talents who are coming through.

“That’s why these friendlies are so important. Obviously they’re about fitness and sharpness for the senior players, but it’s been great to get so many of the younger ones on the pitch and give them a chance to show what they’re about.”