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Monday Monthly: March

As the countdown to the new Irish League term continues, produces the concluding chapter of a weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of last season.

Every Monday, we’ve been taking a chronological look back on a month from the 2019/20 campaign – with March’s curtailed action taking centre stage today.

Having rediscovered their stride in recent weeks, Cliftonville made the short journey to Seaview confident in their chances of chalking up a rare Shore Road double against Crusaders.

Having savoured North Belfast Derby joy over Christmas, however, Paddy McLaughlin’s men were unable to register consecutive wins at the venue, although they did carve out arguably the better chances of an entertaining – but ultimately goalless – encounter.

A few days later, the Reds were on their travels again but few could have guessed that victory over Glentoran at The Oval would be the team’s final outing of the Danske Bank Premiership season.

After taking the lead early in the second-half when captain Chris Curran showed neat feet to weave his way through a crowded goalmouth, Cliftonville doubled their advantage courtesy of an eye-catching finish from namesake Ryan who, after chasing down what appeared a lost cause, cleverly flicked the ball back over the head of home defender Paddy McClean and slotted past Elliott Morris with his left foot.

That would, however, prove the team’s last action for more than four months, with the season suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak a few days later.

The pandemic would ultimately lead to the seven remaining rounds of Premiership fixtures being scrapped entirely and League places being determined by the application of a mathematical formula which effectively amounted to a points-per-game ratio.

The Reds’ campaign did have one further match to come, though, with the Glens exacting revenge in a behind-closed-doors Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup semi-final clash at Windsor Park in late July, when penalty shoot-out heartache put paid to Cliftonville’s ambitions of ending a 41-year wait for the trophy.

Crusaders 0-0 Cliftonville

Glentoran 0-2 Cliftonville
C Curran, R Curran