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Wait of expectation

Our mini series casting a spotlight on the various teams playing under the Cliftonville badge continues with today’s look at our Ladies side.

Like all teams operating under the auspices of the Irish FA, they find themselves in limbo amid the protective measures being taken against the spread of the Covid-19 virus but, unlike the various squads and players whose seasons have been put on hold, Cliftonville Ladies find themselves enduring the frustration of a campaign that has yet to start – and may take a while to do so.

They are scheduled to commence the new Danske Bank Women’s Premiership term with a home game against Sion Swifts on April 22, a few days after their County Antrim Cup First Round date with Downpatrick Ladies, although both fixtures remain understandably subject to review.

Some of the players have, however, recently helped deliver further silverware to Solitude when they were crowned NI Futsal League Champions earlier this month.

Rachel McConnell’s hat-trick alongside strikes from Amber Dempster, Megan Weatherall and Megan Moran earned a remarkable 6-5 victory over Sparta Belfast in the decider at Shankill Leisure Centre.

McConnell struck twice in a minute to provide the Reds with the perfect start and, though Sparta reduced the arrears through Kerry Beattie, McConnell would complete her treble to ensure a two-goal advantage at the interval.

Beattie’s second of the night narrowed the margins again and, while Weatherall netted to make it 4-2, Rachel Rogan’s instant reply meant there was just one goal in it with 15 minutes left on the clock.

Dempster’s conversion looked to have given Cliftonville some welcome breathing space only for Beattie’s hat-trick goal to tee up a tense final few minutes, during which time Moran added her name to the Reds’ tally as her side edged 6-4 in front, rendering Rogan’s last-gasp strike a mere consolation as Cliftonville held on to claim the title.

Fingers crossed there are further glory days and nights to come for our Ladies team in the season ahead – whenever that may eventually be – but rest assured you will be able to keep fully updated on their progress here on and by bookmarking this link.