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Friendly fare

Saturday’s goalless draw with Newington brought the curtain down on a pre-season programme that saw Cliftonville utilise 30 players across nine games either side of the Club’s Europa League commitments.

The Reds begin their Danske Bank Premiership schedule with Saturday’s trip to Coleraine, just 30 miles from where Paddy McLaughlin’s side commenced their 2019/20 preparations when goals from Thomas Maguire and Conor McMenamin (below) earned a 2-1 victory over Derry City at Brandywell Stadium on June 14.

Five days later, a youthful Ards side were beaten 5-0 courtesy of strikes from Ruaidhri Donnelly (2), McMenamin, Jamie Harney and Ryan Curran before Cliftonville suffered their only defeat of pre-season when they were edged out 1-0 by Connah’s Quay Nomads in north Wales.

A further three weeks would pass before the Reds return to friendly action with another five-star show that saw St James Swifts overcome at Celtic Park, where Maguire rattled in a hat-trick alongside a powerful Caoimhin McConnell finish and overhead kick from Harney.

Following elimination from Europe at the hands of Norwegian outfit Haugesund, Cliftonville fielded two teams for fixtures on July 27 – and both won 6-0.

At Rathmore Grammar School in Belfast, Donnelly planted a first-half treble past Aquinas, against whom Chris Curran (2) and Joe Gormley also found the net, while the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena saw Maguire (above) register his second hat-trick of pre-season alongside efforts from Sean Brown, Ryan Curran and an own goal as Cookstown Youth were comprehensively overcome.

The Reds would hit seven on a visit to Crumlin United last Tuesday night when, after being set on their way by Harney’s opener, young guns Calvin McCurry and Brown each netted twice before Seanna Foster and Stephen Garrett added their own names to the Mill Road scoresheet.

Just over 48 hours later, McMenamin struck to earn Cliftonville a draw with Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds ahead of Saturday’s unremarkable meeting with Newington which saw boss McLaughlin hand further game-time to a number of young players, a number of whom had been in SuperCupNI action with County Antrim last week – including substitute Odhran Casey, for whom the stalemate ensured neither he nor brother Aoibheann (above) could claim bragging rights on the final weekend of new season preparations.

Pre-Season Results
Friday, June 14: Derry City 1-2 Cliftonville (Report)
Wednesday, June 19: Cliftonville 5-0 Ards (Report)
Saturday, June 22: Connah’s Quay Nomads 1-0 Cliftonville (Report)
Saturday, July 13: St James Swifts 0-5 Cliftonville (Report)
Saturday, July 27: Aquinas 0-6 Cliftonville XI (Report)
Saturday, July 27: Cookstown Youth 0-6 Cliftonville XI (Report)
Tuesday, July 30: Crumlin United 0-7 Cliftonville (Report)
Thursday, August 1: Sligo Rovers 1-1 Cliftonville (Report)
Saturday, August 3: Cliftonville 0-0 Newington (Report)

Pre-Season Record
Played: 9
Won: 6
Drew: 2
Lost: 1
Goals scored: 32
Goals conceded: 3

Pre-Season Goalscorers
7: Thomas Maguire
5: Ruaidhri Donnelly
3: Sean Brown, Jamie Harney, Conor McMenamin
2: Chris Curran, Ryan Curran, Calvin McCurry
1: Seanna Foster, Stephen Garrett, Joe Gormley, Caoimhin McConnell, Own Goal