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Keeping things friendly

Cliftonville will prepare for their forthcoming Europa Conference League commitments with a two-game weekend across the Irish Sea next month.

After taking on fellow first qualifying round entrants Bala Town at Maes Tegid (pictured) on Saturday, June 25, Paddy McLaughlin’s squad will tackle Welsh Premier League Champions The New Saints at Park Hall the following day.

Bala – who, like the Reds, finished runners-up in their domestic division last season – have been regular performers on the European stage over the past decade, with the Clubs sharing minor continental history in the form of prior opponents Differdange and Standard Liege.

The Lakesiders’ most recent foes in UEFA competition are also familiar to Cliftonville; fellow Danske Bank Premiership side Larne having eliminated Colin Caton’s team from last season’s Conference League.

TNS are, meanwhile, no strangers to the Reds with the Clubs locking horns no fewer than seven times in the last 11 years.

In the summer of 2011, Cliftonville earned a 2-1 friendly victory in Oswestry less than 48 hours before being paired with the Shropshire outfit in the Europa League.

The Saints emerged victorious in that tie by a 2-1 aggregate scoreline and also hold overall success in the sides’ four friendly meetings since then; three 1-0 wins at Solitude prior to a goalless encounter at Park Hall in 2015.

They, too, have recent history with Irish League opposition, having overcome Glentoran 3-1 on aggregate less than 12 months ago – Jamie McDonagh scoring the Oval outfit’s goal in the tie.

As preparations for the Reds’ return to Europe continue, supporters are advised to keep their diaries clear on June 11, 18 and 30, with news of potential further friendly fixtures to follow.

Friendly dates
Saturday, June 11: Cliftonville v TBC
Saturday, June 18: Cliftonville v TBC
Saturday, June 25: Bala Town v Cliftonville (3pm)
Sunday, June 26: The New Saints v Cliftonville (1.45pm)
Thursday, June 30: Cliftonville v TBC