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Paddy’s fan service

Paddy McLaughlin says Cliftonville’s determination to repay their supporters was the motivation behind last night’s stunning County Antrim Shield Final success.

Trailing 1-0 to Ballymena United with six minutes of injury-time played, the Reds produced an incredible late turnaround when injury-time goals from Thomas Maguire and Ryan Curran saw the silverware return to Solitude for the first time in five years.

“Never write this team off,” said McLaughlin.

“People keep writing them off as individuals and as a team, but every time they come back and deliver. They work hard in every game, in every training session and are determined to be the best they can be for this Club. I know the last week or so has been tough for everybody concerned, but hopefully winning the Shield – and the way it was done – pays everyone back for that.

“We let our fans down in the previous two matches and we were determined that it wasn’t going to happen again.

“I didn’t really know what kind of a crowd we’d have at the game and I couldn’t believe it when we stepped out of the tunnel and saw the numbers that were there to support us. A cold night in the middle of January off the back of two disappointing performances, people could have stayed away but they came out in force and I’m absolutely delighted we were able to repay them.

“The scenes at the end… I don’t even know how to describe them. When we equalised, I did think we’d go on to win it because the momentum was with us by that stage – but I didn’t think it would come that quickly! I was trying to get us regrouped and thinking about what I was going to say to the boys for Extra Time, but that turned out to be a waste of my time and I’m delighted it was.

“Full credit to the players, they could have given it up and just said it’s one of those nights where it’s not meant to be – but that’s not how they operate. They always battle to the end of every game and they’ve got a big reward for it here.”