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Love and war

Though Cliftonville did not adopt Professionalism until 1972, whispers about the Club’s change in status had started long before that – and seasons like 1916/17 are the reason why.

Under the guidance of Hugh McAteer (pictured) and with little prospect of silverware for a team whose total of nine goals was the second-lowest tally the Reds had ever recorded in the League, many supporters had championed for change throughout the period covering the First World War.

Continuing a retrospective series examining noteworthy seasons in the Club’s history, today reflects on the facts and figures behind the second Wartime Regional League campaign.

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After beating Belfast United 2-1 at Solitude, Cliftonville completed their preparations for the term ahead with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Glenavon.

Midway through the season, meanwhile, the team bridged the gap between their Irish Cup exit and the start of the Gold Cup by playing three further friendlies against Glentoran (0-1), Distillery (3-1) and Whitehead (3-1).

Regional League
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The Reds’ competitive programme commenced with a 1-0 reverse against Distillery before they earned their first point in a 1-1 draw with Glentoran ahead of back to back victories over pre-season opponents Glenavon (3-2) and Belfast United (3-0).

A run of four games that delivered no goals and just a single point would follow, ahead of the team concluding their Regional League fixtures with another win against Belfast United and a 1-1 draw with Linfield, during which goalkeeper Dan Peck saved a penalty.

City Cup
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Attentions then turned to the City Cup in early December, but the Reds would win just two of their 10 games in a spell that included a 3-1 loss to Glentoran two days before Christmas – an occasion notable for an extraordinary incident involving captain James Molyneux and visiting counterpart William Emerson, whose sendings off were relayed by a contemporary report in incredible detail…

“The referee states he ordered both men off at the one time – as Molyneux refused point blank to leave until Emerson was sent along with him. There was a long scene in which a spectator, who came on to the field to act ‘the role of peacemaker’ was ‘sent to sleep’ by a crashing right to the point from a player.

It required the exhortations of the Cliftonville officials to get Molyneux to leave and at one time he looked to have it out with the referee.

Some of the crowd came on the field, a glorious Donnybrook scene. Eventually Emerson went off and Molyneux quietly strolled with him.”

County Antrim Shield
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There was little to shout about in the County Antrim Shield, where Cliftonville’s interest started and ended with a January 13 encounter with Belfast Celtic II, who won 1-0 at Solitude.

Irish Cup
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There was similar woe in the Irish Cup when Glentoran registered a comfortable 2-0 win in the opening round.

Gold Cup
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Things began brightly in the Gold Cup courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Glenavon and, though beaten by the Glens three days later, Cliftonville recovered with 1-0 and 2-0 wins against Linfield and Belfast United respectively, before signing off with a 2-0 loss to Distillery.

Charity Cup
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As was par for the course in knockout competitions, the Reds stumbled at the first hurdle but this time their exit – at the hands of Belfast United – came following a 1-1 draw, with the hosts making progress by virtue of having claimed six corners to Cliftonville’s two.

In Review
Cliftonville finished fourth in the six-team Regional League table, six points ahead of bottom placed Belfast United and eight behind undefeated Champions Glentoran.

James Cathcart was the only player to feature in all 28 of the Reds’ fixtures across all competitions, with Tom Molyneux (27), John Harris and J McCracken (both 24) his nearest challengers.

Four goals was enough to earn a player a share of the leading scorer accolade, with J McCracken, Fred Neville and D Stewart all doing the needful.