Ryan Curran admits that the last few weeks of build up to tonight’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Semi Final have at times felt longer than football’s four-and-a-half month shutdown.
This evening’s Windsor Park showdown with Glentoran represents Cliftonville’s first outing since a March 7 clash with the same opponents and Curran – who was among the Reds’ goalscorers that day – says the squad are fully focused on the task in front of them.
“Ever since a date was set for the game and we returned to training, we’ve had our eyes on the job,” he explains.
“It’s been good to have something to work towards but, at the same time, those four or five weeks have seemed longer than the lockdown itself.
“It was strange when we first we back because we had to have Covid tests and temperature checks, then there was social distancing within smaller groups but credit to the management, backroom team and everybody behind the scenes at the Club because they’ve done everything they can to make training feel as normal as possible.”
A number of behind-closed-doors friendlies have augmented Cliftonville’s preparations for tonight’s match and, though no supporters will be permitted inside Windsor, Curran insists knowing that the Red Army are fully behind them means a lot to him and his team-mates.
“There was nobody at our friendly games and it probably takes you back to when you played at underage level, but obviously Windsor will be different because we’re so used to having a big crowd behind us there,” he adds.
“When the draw for the Semi Finals was made, all the boys were really looking forward to it because both ourselves and Glentoran would have brought a lot of fans. You’d probably have been looking at seven or eight thousand people and we were excited about playing in that sort of atmosphere and I’m sure the Glens’ players were the same.
“No supporters being there doesn’t change the magnitude of the game, though. We all know what the Irish Cup means to this Club. I had just signed a few days before the Final two years ago and I was at the game but, even though we lost, the support we had and how much it meant to our fans was really obvious.
“You want to do well for yourself and your team-mates but the people you really don’t want to let down are your supporters, friends and families. That’s who you want to win for and, during the game, we’ll be well aware that we’ll have thousands of fans tuning in on TV and on their phones or online and we’re motivated to win for them.”
Alternatively, you can keep track of every kick on Twitter courtesy of Reds By The Minute, who will be welcoming your messages of support and pictures throughout the day.
Wherever you’re following the action from, please remember to stay safe, wear your colours with pride, keep your singing voices loud and let’s unite our respective locations in support of Paddy and the players.