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Tommy’s title

Cliftonville Football Club were proud to this weekend induct Tommy Breslin to the John McCredy McAlery Hall of Fame.

Represented by his partner Valerie at last night’s Cliftonville FC Awards at the Hilton Hotel, where Tommy’s Assistant Manager Peter Murray and captain George McMullan oversaw the presentation, Breslin – a firm favourite as a Reds player before a legendary spell as Manager – formally joins the illustrious names bestowed with iconic status at Ireland’s Oldest Football Club.

Named in honour of Cliftonville FC’s founding father, the Hall of Fame was established to celebrate and highlight the achievements of our greatest ever servants, with Breslin rightly congratulated and acknowledged for the integral role he played at Solitude.

He made the first of 288 Reds appearances in a Gold Cup clash with Crusaders on October 12, 1985 and ended his playing days at the Club when Cliftonville faced Ballymena United on April 24, 1993.

The first of his 16 goals came when he bagged a brace against Newry Town on St Patrick’s Day, 1986, while a League Cup encounter with Queen’s University on January 27, 1993 saw him find the net for the final time.

After returning to Solitude in a coaching capacity, Breslin was appointed Assistant Manager to Eddie Patterson before assuming the reins himself – initially on a temporary basis – in April 2011.

His permanent appointment would herald the most successful era in the history of Ireland’s Oldest Football Club, with the November 2011 victory over Glentoran in the County Antrim Shield Final delivering the first silverware of his tenancy.

The following summer saw Cliftonville secure their first ever European win at Solitude when Kalmar were beaten 1-0 in the Europa League and, though the Swedes would claim aggregate success when the teams renewed rivalries a week later, the signs were already in place that a season to remember could be on the cards.

Fast forward two years and, with the Premiership title and League Cup having both been claimed and successfully defended during a period that yielded never-to-be-forgotten Champions League nights against Celtic as well as close-fought continental encounters with Debrecen, Breslin’s third full season at the helm also delivered further Shield success and yet another League Cup honour, along with the somewhat less vaunted Charity Shield.

Though his legendary contribution to Cliftonville FC is cemented in iconic status, the measure of the man could never be quantified simply by a trophy count. On and off the pitch, in and outside of football, Tommy – who returned to the Solitude dugout in a brief interim capacity for the final two games of the 2016/17 season – remains revered and respected for his gentle demeanour, kindness, quick wit and a warmth of character that endeared him to so many.

He turned Cliftonville dreams into reality and led his Club to unprecedented heights, leaving an astonishing legacy that, in hand with the most affable and engaging of personalities, guarantees his legendary status in perpetuity.

On the night that the Club celebrated the 10th anniversary of that never-to-be-forgotten 2013 title success, there could only ever be one person added to our Hall of Fame.