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Case for the defence

On this sixth anniversary of Cliftonville’s most recent Danske Bank Premiership title win, we’re turning the clock back to examine the overall story of the Club’s back-to-back trophy triumphs.

It was on this day in 2014 that goals from Chris Curran and Stephen Garrett earned a 2-0 win over Portadown at Shamrock Park and sealed a second consecutive League crown for Tommy Breslin’s side, who had already made history by successfully defending the League Cup earlier in the season.

That victory – a penalty shoot-out defeat of Crusaders at Solitude – represented the first time in some 105 years that the Reds had extended any silverware’s stay in the Boardroom cabinet.

The first ever trophy that Cliftonville lifted in successive seasons was the Belfast Charities Cup, which to this day remains the only honour the Club has won sequentially in two different runs.

Initially lifted four years in a row from 1886-1889 (courtesy of respective wins over Glentoran, YMCA, Linfield and Distillery), the Reds were also victorious against the Blues and Whites in 1908 and 1909 – which was the last successfully defended prize until Breslin’s League Cup winners of 2014 who, just as they had done 12 months earlier, got the better of Crusaders in the decider.

That team would go on to break a competition record by winning four straight Finals, edging past Ballymena United in a rollercoaster of a tie in 2015 before getting the better of Ards the following year.

The only other occasion throughout history that Cliftonville have enjoyed back-to-back successes in a single tournament came in the Irish Cup at the beginning of the last century when, after beating Bohemians 2-1 in the 1900 decider, they sealed a 1-0 win against another Dublin side, Freebooters, the following year.

Of the senior competitions that are still played for to this day, the County Antrim Shield is the only one the Club has never won in consecutive terms – even if a quick glance at the Honours List might suggest otherwise!

For, while the Reds did claim the Shield in both 2007 and 2008, Glentoran lifted it in between times due to a shift in the competition’s scheduling.

In terms of pre-season contests, meanwhile, the Bob Larmour Memorial Cup was won seven consecutive times courtesy of victories over Banbridge Town between 2006-2012, while FC United of Manchester, Stirling Albion and Swansea City were conquered in the Supporters’ Cup clashes of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The story of the Pioneer Cup – contested on a sporadic basis between the Reds and Bohemians – is perhaps a little more difficult to follow given that the games were not necessarily always staged annually and because, between Cliftonville’s wins in 1953 and 1954, the competition changed its name from the Victory Cup.

Nevertheless, the Reds did earn back-to-back supremacy in 1956 and 1958 as well as taking the trophy three campaigns in a row from 1981-1983.

Away from the senior set-up, Cliftonville Olympic toasted Steel & Sons Cup Final glory in both 1907 and 1908, while George Wilson Cup successes were recorded as recently as 2016 and 2017.

The Irish Alliance First Division title went the Reds’ way in 1899 and 1900, with the Strollers completing the list when they were crowned Youth League Champions in 1993 and 1994.

Back-to-back senior success
Premiership: 2013, 2014
Irish Cup: 1900, 1901
League Cup: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Belfast Charities Cup: 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889 and 1908, 1909

Non-competitive trophies
Pioneer Cup: 1953 (as Victory Cup), 1954; 1956, 1958 and 1981, 1982, 1983
Bob Larmour Memorial Cup:
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Supporters’ Cup: 2010, 2011, 2012

Non-senior honours
Steel & Sons Cup: 1907, 1908
George Wilson Cup: 2016, 2017
Irish Alliance First Division: 1899, 1900
IFL Youth League: 1993, 1994