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Net gains for O’Neill

Paul O’Neill has revealed that Manager Paddy McLaughlin provided him with a simple instruction when he emerged from the bench in yesterday’s League Cup Final – score a goal.

The striker was introduced with 20 minutes left on the clock at Windsor Park, where Cliftonville’s dreams of silverware were hanging by a thread with Coleraine coasting at a 2-0 advantage.

Fellow substitute Joe Gormley would, however, spark the fightback when he nodded in with just under a quarter of an hour remaining ahead of O’Neill seizing on a loose ball inside the box to poke home for 2-2 after Gormley’s injury-time header had come back off the crossbar.

O’Neill struck again early in extra-time to put the Reds in front for the first time in the game ahead of Gormley completing his own brace to render Curtis Allen’s late response as a mere consolation for the Bannsiders.

“Go out, express yourself, get a goal and get us back in the game,” was O’Neill’s memory of McLaughlin’s masterplan.

“Thankfully, Joe came on, brought it back to 2-1 and there was still 10-15 minutes left to get that second goal. The ball just fell to me nicely in the box and it was just a tap-in, really.”

The 22-year-old’s second effort was a little less straightforward as he showed clever awareness inside the area to evade his marker and slam home Chris Curran’s cutback to spark scenes of jubilation among the Red Army in the North and Kop stands.

“In extra-time, I was just trying to get myself in the box and get goals to help the team win the game,” he added.

“The lads have been brilliant – they put in a hard, hard shift and there’s a never-say-die attitude in here and it was just a brilliant win and brilliant to get the trophy.”