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John McGrady acknowledges that, as holders of the Women’s Premiership League Cup, Cliftonville Ladies are there to be shot at when they begin their defence of the trophy against Lisburn Ladies this evening.

The Reds travel to Bluebell Stadium for their first fixture of the domestic campaign anticipating a stern challenge from a home side who are much changed from last term.

“We know it makes the competition harder for us,” says McGrady of his team’s grip on the silverware.

“As holders, everyone will want to see us exit the competition and want to beat us. There is an extra edge going into the game as the holders.

“Any time we have played Lisburn Ladies, it’s always been a tough test. They have changed management this season, have new players in and play a different style of football. They have also entered the All-Island Cup, which shows the confidence they have within their own Club and team to go and play against top opposition.”

Cliftonville’s own season kicked off with last month’s All-Island Cup draw with Shelbourne at Solitude – an exercise that McGrady says assisted in fine-tuning things for the campaign ahead.

“It helped us see how near or far we are away in certain areas for the season,” he explains.

“The Shels are a top team so it’s a good baseline for us to see what we need to improve going forward.”