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Double check

Cliftonville’s bid to combine the 2013 Irish League title with Irish Cup glory might remain fresh in the memory – but how much do you know about the team of 1896/97 that almost toasted that particular double?

Continuing a new retrospective series examining significant campaigns in the Club’s history, today reflects on the facts and figures behind Hugh McAteer’s first term in charge.

After a late stumble thwarted their push to be crowned Champions, the Reds rallied to secure the runners-up spot courtesy of a Play-Off victory over Linfield before lifting the Cup ahead of interesting Easter fixtures with both Celtic and Liverpool.

It all began on August 29, 1896 when Cliftonville warmed up with a 2-0 friendly win over Larne before beginning their League programme with a 3-1 defeat of Belfast Celtic and 4-3 success against Linfield.

After losing to Glentoran and Distillery, a 10-man Reds side beat North Staffordshire Regiment 2-1 at Solitude and enjoyed an encouraging run of form only for a 3-2 reverse against the Glens towards the end of October to all but end their title hopes.

Their Irish Cup run did, however, start in stunning form when Belfast Celtic were thumped 7-1 before Linfield were eliminated at the Quarter Final stage.

The Charity Cup then took centre stage throughout December ahead of a festive showdown with the Blues – with whom Cliftonville had ended the League campaign locked on 11 points – ensuring McAteer’s men would claim second position in the table behind Glentoran.

A win over Distillery booked an Irish Cup Final berth with Sherwood Foresters, who were beaten 3-1 at Grosvenor Park.

That would not, however, be the team’s last silverware of the season, with a 6-2 win against Distillery earning the Charity Cup, while Cliftonville’s City Cup campaign – which included a superb comeback from 3-0 behind to beat Linfield – ended with consecutive losses to the Glens and North Staffordshire Regiment.

In among all of this, meanwhile, the Reds would lose 2-0 to Celtic in a Solitude friendly just a day before going down 1-0 to Liverpool at Anfield as part of a trip that had also been scheduled to include a clash with Manchester City.

August 29, 1896
Friendly: Larne 0-2 Cliftonville (Waddell, Martin)

September 5, 1896
Irish League: Belfast Celtic 1-3 Cliftonville (J Pyper, Martin, J Campbell)

September 12, 1896
Irish League: Linfield 3-4 Cliftonville (Pyper 2, J Campbell, A Cambell)

September 19, 1896
Irish League: Cliftonville 1-3 Glentoran (J Campbell)

September 26, 1896
Irish League: Cliftonville 2-3 Distillery (J Pyper 2)

October 3, 1896
Irish League: Cliftonville 2-1 North Staffordshire Regiment (J Pyper 2)

October 10, 1896
Irish League: Cliftonville 3-1 Belfast Celtic (Gibson, J Campbell, A Campbell)

October 17, 1896
Irish League: Cliftonville 1-1 Linfield (Pyper)

October 24, 1896
Irish League: Glentoran 3-2 Cliftonville (Gibson 2)

October 31, 1896
Irish League: Distillery 2-2 Cliftonville (A Campbell 2)

November 14, 1896
Irish Cup First Round: Cliftonville 7-1 Belfast Celtic (A Campbell, Gibson 3, Martin 2, Pyper)

November 21, 1896
Irish League: Cliftonville 2-2 North Staffordshire Regiment (Martin 2)

November 28, 1896
Irish Cup Quarter Final: Linfield 1-2 Cliftonville (J Campbell, OG)

December 5, 1896
City Cup: Cliftonville 2-1 Belfast Celtic (Martin, Gibson)

December 12, 1896
City Cup: Cliftonville 1-2 Linfield (J Campbell)

December 19, 1896
City Cup: Cliftonville 2-2 Glentoran (J Pyper, McCashin)

December 25, 1896
City Cup: Cliftonville 3-3 Distillery (Scorers unknown)

December 26, 1896
Irish League Play-Off: Cliftonville 3-2 Linfield (Campbell, Martin, Barron)

January 2, 1897
City Cup: Cliftonville 0-1 North Staffordshire Regiment

January 9, 1897
City Cup: Cliftonville 3-0 Belfast Celtic (Scorers unknown)

January 16, 1897
County Antrim Shield First Round: Cliftonville 1-2 Glentoran (J Pyper)

January 23, 1897
Irish Cup Semi Final: Cliftonville 2-1 Distillery (Martin, Polland)

March 13, 1897
Friendly: St Columbs Court Celtic 2-3 Cliftonville (J Pyper 2, Martin)

March 20, 1897
Irish Cup Final: Sherwood Foresters 1-3 Cliftonville (J Campbell 2, Martin)

April 10, 1897
Charity Cup Semi Final: Cliftonville 3-0 Linfield (McCashin, Martin, J Pyper)

April 17, 1897
City Cup: Distillery 0-4 Cliftonville (A Campbell 2, McCashin, Pyper)

April 19, 1897
Friendly: Cliftonville 0-2 Celtic

April 20, 1897
Friendly: Liverpool 1-0 Cliftonville

April 24, 1897
Charity Cup Final: Cliftonville 1-1 Distillery (J Campbell)

May 1, 1897
City Cup: Cliftonville 4-3 Linfield (Pyper 2, A Campbell 2)

May 5, 1897
Charity Cup Final Replay: Cliftonville 6-2 Distillery (Barron 2, McCashin, Martin, Pyper, OG)

May 8, 1897
City Cup: Glentoran 2-0 Cliftonville

May 15, 1897
City Cup: Cliftonville 0-2 North Staffordshire Regiment