With less than 48 hours until the release of the 2021/22 Danske Bank Premiership fixture list, cliftonvillefc.net kicks off a new weekly mini-series reflecting on the good, the bad and the in-betweens of last term.
Every Monday between now and the new campaign kicking off, we’ll take a chronological look back on a month from the the 2020/21 programme – with October’s long overdue wait for football’s return taking centre stage today.
Though Cliftonville had emerged from lockdown to contest an Irish Cup semi-final encounter more than two months earlier, the commencement of the County Antrim Shield represented the end of a long wait stretching all the way back to March.
The seven intervening months had seen football halted completely before a stop-start return to action was played out in front of heavily-reduced attendances, beginning with a Shield date against Knockbreda.
Despite falling behind to a well-taken debut strike from recently-departed Solitude legend Stephen Garrett, the holders responded through an inch-perfect Michael McCrudden lob before Joe Gormley sealed the deal just as a penalty shootout was looming.
That win teed up a midweek quarter-final date with Dundela, who were swept aside 7-2 thanks to a quadruple of goals from Gormley, two from Chris Curran (above) and another from his namesake Ryan.
There would be drama on the eve of the new Premiership season when it was announced that, due to Covid-enforcements, supporters would not be able to attend the home game with Glentoran, only for that restriction to be lifted at the 11th hour – much to the delight of those lucky ticket holders who were there to see Ryan Curran bank a dramatic late winner (main image).
Though a Seaview defeat to Crusaders would follow – in a game which set something of a theme for the season’s North Belfast Derbies as the Crues made the most of a rare opening to claim the spoils – the Reds ended the opening month of the term by eventually disposing of Carrick Rangers; Thomas Maguire, Gormley (above) and Conor McMenamin all netting in the final 30 minutes of a hard-earned triumph.
October concluded with supporters nominating Aaron Donnelly – who had performed superbly in both defence and central midfield – 2020/21’s first Sean Graham Player of the Month as Cliftonville looked ahead to two home games in November’s opening week…
Cliftonville 2-1 Knockbreda
Cliftonville 7-2 Dundela
Gormley , C Curran , R Curran
Cliftonville 1-0 Glentoran
Cliftonville 0-1 Crusaders
Cliftonville 3-0 Carrick Rangers
Maguire, Gormley, McMenamin