Tomorrow’s friendly game with Drogheda United marks Cliftonville’s first meeting with the County Louth outfit for more than 11 years – and the sides’ first clash at Solitude since 1987.
In total, the Reds have locked horns with the Drogs on eight previous occasions, with this weekend’s encounter representing the sixth friendly contested between the Clubs.
The teams first met on Tyler Cup duty back in May 1978 when, despite twice taking the lead, Cliftonville eventually fell to defeat following a penalty shoot-out on a night that will live long in the memory of goalkeeper Brian Johnston.
With John Platt having nodded the hosts in front from John Hewitt’s set play delivery, Johnston produced heroics to keep a Martin Donnelly spot-kick out.
Brendan Tully would eventually draw United level and, though Tony Bell restored the Reds’ advantage, Cathal Muckian made it 2-2 to send the tie to penalties, where Johnston saved from Jim Jackson but then put his own kick wide of the post, allowing Bobby McAuley to seal a 6-5 success that sent Drogheda through to the Semi Finals.
A further seven years would pass until the teams caught up with one another; a 1-1 draw at Solitude in August 1985 commencing a run of five consecutive friendly clashes.
The Reds would register their first – and, to date, only – win over the Drogs in what was billed a ‘Floodlit Friendly’ three days before Christmas 1987 ahead of a 2-2 draw in the sides’ first ever engagement at United Park in the summer of 1989.
Twelve months on, a 2-0 loss at the same venue kicked off a sequence of defeats at the hands of the League of Ireland side, who repeated the feat in 1994.
Thereafter, it was not until February 2008 that the teams would cross eachothers’ path in the group stage of the Setanta Sports Cup.
Cliftonville’s maiden outing in the All-Ireland competition saw Francis Murphy and Mark Holland on target in a 3-2 reverse that was not without some late drama; David McAlinden having two efforts cleared off the line before referee Davy Malcolm was somehow oblivious to United keeper Mikko Vilmunen cleaning out Chris Scannell inside the penalty area during injury-time.
The return tie – played at Donegal Celtic’s Suffolk Road home while the McAlery Stand was being constructed at Solitude – was less troublesome for United, who claimed a 2-0 triumph courtesy of finishes from Eamon Zayed and Adam Hughes, guaranteeing top spot in the group over fellow qualifiers Cork City, who would go on to lift the Cup later in the year.
May 2, 1978: Tyler Cup Quarter Final: Cliftonville 2-2 Drogheda United (Platt, Bell) [5-6 on penalties]
August 14, 1985: Friendly: Cliftonville 1-1 Drogheda United (Hanna)
December 22, 1987: Friendly: Cliftonville 3-1 Drogheda United (McCusker, Murphy, Higgins)
August 4, 1989: Friendly: Drogheda United 2-2 Cliftonville (Drake, Murray)
August 3, 1990: Friendly: Drogheda United 2-0 Cliftonville
July 31, 1994: Friendly: Drogheda United 2-0 Cliftonville
February 26, 2008: Setanta Sports Cup Group 1: Drogheda United 3-2 Cliftonville (Murphy, M Holland)
September 22, 2008: Setanta Sports Cup Group 1: Cliftonville 0-2 Drogheda United