Paddy McLaughlin saluted the performances of Cliftonville’s young guns in yesterday’s final Danske Bank Premiership fixture of the season.
Although Linfield took the points courtesy of a 2-0 victory, Reds fans will have been heartened to see goalkeeper Declan Dunne and young defenders Odhran Casey and Stephen McGuinness turn in such encouraging displays and McLaughlin – who made nine changes from the team that had started against Crusaders last time out – was full of praise for the trio afterwards.
“We’ve positives to take from the match, not least the game-time we were able to give a few of the younger lads and hopefully that gives them serious confidence going into next season,” he said.
“Players like that are the future of the Club and they proved they’re more than capable of coming in. They’ll be challenging for first-team positions from pre-season on.
“I was delighted with Casey, I thought he was superb; Declan Dunne was excellent in nets and Stephen McGuinness was also excellent.
“It was also good to give game-time to some of the more senior players who haven’t been playing regularly.”
Another major plus was the return from injury of Joe Gormley after almost five months on the sidelines, with McLaughlin more than pleased to see the Club’s all-time leading goalscorer back on the pitch.
“Joe frightens defenders and intimidates people because they know how ruthless he is,” he added.
“If you slip up in any way at all, he can punish you in a split second, so having him back available; we’re delighted. He’s put his body on the line for the team because the medical advice he got meant we weren’t expecting him back until pre-season, but he’s been training hard for the last couple of weeks and pushing and pushing to be involved.”