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Keeping up appearances

Joe Gormley last night became just the eighth player to break the 400 appearance barrier for Cliftonville – and he marked the occasion in typical style with a two-goal blast to help get the Reds’ defence of the League Cup off to a successful start.

His second-half double against Harland & Wolff Welders took his overall tally to 245, meaning the 32-year-old has averaged a goal every 1.6 games since making his debut back in June 2011.

He has, in addition, provided 84 assists over the years, with last night’s outing at Blanchflower Stadium representing the 85th time he has come on as a substitute.

“Top strikers always score goals,” said boss Paddy McLaughlin in the aftermath of the win over the Welders.

“It’s an incredible achievement to have made 400 appearances and his goal record show why he’s not just a Cliftonville legend but an Irish League legend, it’s an incredible stat. He’s come on and done the business to put the game to bed for us. We were creating a load of chances but failing to take them and Joe comes on and, once you give him a sniff of goal, nine times out of 10 he sticks it in the net.”

Joe’s first appearance came in a friendly with The New Saints on June 18, 2011 and, though his injury-time winner at Park Hall doesn’t count towards his total, his incredible half-volley from the halfway line provided an early glimpse of what was to come in a Red shirt.

His first competitive outing came somewhat ironically against the same opponents in the Europa League just 12 days later but almost three further months would pass before he opened his scoring account when Ards were defeated on League Cup duty at Solitude on September 20, 2011 – Cliftonville’s 132nd birthday.

His opener from the penalty spot against Crusaders on October 5, 2018 saw him break a 57-year-old record set when Kevin McGarry netted the last of his 170 goals for the Club in a League encounter with Bangor on March 4, 1961.

While McGarry – who beat the previous landmark of 127 set by Sid Over – amassed his total after 286 appearances for the Reds, Gormley needed just 247 to set his own goalscoring milestone, one which he has since increased substantially.

His injury-time strike to complete the scoring last night was, meanwhile, Cliftonville’s 100th away goal in the League Cup, with the game itself seeing the Reds record the Club’s 725th win on the road.

Furthermore, the contest extended the Reds’ 33-year run without conceding to the Welders, whose only ever goals in the fixture came in a 1989 League Cup tie that remains their solitary victory over Cliftonville, who have emerged on top in the Clubs’ eight other competitive meetings.

Cliftonville FC Top 10 Appearances
610: Mickey Donnelly
545: George McMullan
523: Ronan Scannell
456: Chris Scannell
451: John Wilson
430: Walter Mills
429: Ernie McCleary
400: Joe Gormley
396: Ryan Catney, Marty Tabb

Cliftonville FC Top 10 Goalscorers
245: Joe Gormley
170: Kevin McGarry
153: Chris Scannell
127: Sid Over
115: Norman McCaw
110: James Millar
103: George McMullan
99: John Platt
84: Liam Boyce
78: Frank Mortished