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Ladies’ Premier ambition

Just 41 days remain until Cliftonville Ladies kick their Danske Bank Women’s Premiership campaign off and, as the countdown continues to that Brandywell curtain-raiser with Derry City Women, Reds trio Marissa Callaghan, Toni-Leigh Finnegan and Fi Morgan simply can’t wait to get started.

Northern Ireland skipper Callaghan, who also has an eagerly-anticipated European Championship Play-Off double-header with Ukraine on the horizon, says that hard work must be the cornerstone upon which any Cliftonville success is built in the season ahead.

“We want to move up the table, compete against the top teams and play the Cliftonville way with passion and work-rate,” she explains.

“I want us to be the fittest team – the team that works harder than anyone else. Another aim would be to get a good Cup run, to play for some silverware and ideally make it to the Irish Cup Final.”

International team-mate Finnegan – a goal scorer on the Reds’ last visit to The Brandywell back in December – is likewise ambitious to be in the mix for honours and admits she’s looking forward to the return of spectators to matches after the entirety of the 2020 campaign was played behind closed doors.

“I’m hoping, and I’m sure the rest of the girls are the same, that we challenge for the top spot this year, in both the League and Cups,” she asserts.

“I’m hoping that we get back to Solitude with the fans behind us and even in the away games, I know I missed the support last season from them.

“On a personal note, I hope I have a good season and help the team as much as possible to compete and continue where I left off last season.”

Young defender Morgan, meanwhile, says the positivity that has been brewing within the camp bodes well for the Reds’ imminent return to competitive action.

“I’m looking forward to crossing the white line and giving my full effort to the team in front of the loyal Cliftonville fans,” she enthuses. “Hopefully we get rewarded for our efforts with some silverware.

“Last year without the fans was difficult, we will turn it around with the positive attitude we have flowing among the squad, coaching staff and Manager.

“As a team, we have been working really hard and, now that we have gelled together, we will be hard to beat.”

Delighted with how the squad have applied themselves throughout preparations for the season ahead, Elite Player Coach Brendan Lynch says: “Everybody has been working really hard and is looking forward to the Premiership starting next month.

“We’re currently in the middle of our pre-season, the entire management team are really pleased with how things have been going and we’re looking to step things up and take that with us into the new season kicking off.”