Paddy McLaughlin hailed his Cliftonville players for battling against the odds to secure European football with last night’s victory over Coleraine.
First-half goals from Ryan Curran and Joe Gormley set the Reds on course for a 2-1 win that guarantees a top-two finish in the Danske Bank Premiership and, at the very least, entry into next season’s Europa Conference League.
“That’s a massive achievement,” said McLaughlin.
“When you consider what’s out there with other Clubs and the facilities and the set-up and the status that they have, for our boys to secure European football is unbelievable. You can’t give our boys enough credit, they fully deserve it. They’ve been excellent all year long, they’ve worked against the odds, they’ve carried the underdog tag brilliantly and they fully deserve all the plaudits that they’ll get for securing European football.”
Having drawn both of their previous post-split fixtures 0-0, Cliftonville travelled to The Showgrounds determined to return to winning ways and produced a composed display to claim full points at a venue that has not always been a traditionally happy hunting ground.
“I know Coleraine are in a run of results that they’re not happy with but they’re still a good side, they still have good players there,” added McLaughlin.
“They’ve had a dip in form but they’re still really, really strong and still a dangerous opponent with a brilliant Manager in Oran Kearney, so we knew to come here and get a result, we had to be at our maximum and I think for the majority of the game, we were.
“We controlled a lot of the game and were 2-0 up and probably comfortable enough, although we made it nervous for ourselves by giving away a bit of a soft goal late on but, up until that point, I thought we fully controlled the game and deserved our lead, but we controlled the game again after that and managed it really well.”
With the Reds now mathematically certain not to be involved in the end-of-term Play-Offs for Europe, McLaughlin and his players have just two fixtures left this season – and the Manager is looking forward to what the next couple of weeks will bring.
“As much as we’re delighted to get European football, we’ve still one more push in us,” he said. “Anything can happen in football.”