Paddy McLaughlin says Odhrán Casey’s performance in yesterday’s County Antrim Shield first round victory over Knockbreda should serve as a reminder that nobody is assured of their place in the Cliftonville line-up.
Having already lost Seanna Foster to injury, McLaughlin was forced to contend with the withdrawal of Jamie Harney at half-time and slotted 18-year-old Casey into a re-shaped line-up as the Reds hit back from 1-0 down to make progress courtesy of goals from Michael McCrudden and Joe Gormley.
“We made hard work of it at times but we got the job done and deservedly so,” surmises the Manager.
“In the first-half especially, we weren’t really at it and I thought we had a few players who looked a wee bit comfortable in their positions but that’s not going to be the case this season. We have a lot of good young players at this Club and I won’t think twice about putting them in the team.
“I thought Odhrán Casey did brilliantly in defence during the second-half and that’s something we really need a big look at – what the younger ones are going to be able to offer us. There are others, too, but Odhrán showed he could slot into the team and didn’t look one bit out of place.”
Cliftonville were noticeably improved from the moment the second-half kicked off and McLaughlin says he’s pleased with how the players took his interval message on board – and their reaction to being denied what appeared a stonewall penalty when Conor McMenamin was tripped by Lee McGreevy.
“We needed to be quicker and sharper, plus I think Michael McCrudden and Ryan Curran stepped it up and gave us more of what we were looking for up front,” he adds.
“We got the equaliser pretty quickly and had a few more dangerous opportunities after that which we weren’t able to put away. With the penalty incident, the best way to deal with something like that is not to let it anger you or distract you. It was important we kept going and we got the winner a couple of minutes later.
“We knew Knockbreda would work us hard. We had them watched against Crusaders last week and they played exactly how we expected them to. Dundela will be another test on Tuesday. They had a good win against Queen’s and, in Colin Nixon, they have a Manager who knows what it’s all about. He’s been there and done that in the Irish League and I’ve no doubt he’ll have his team well drilled for playing us.”