Football/Soccer

Tim McGarry delighted Joe Gormley has equalled his uncle Kevin McGarry's Cliftonville goal record

Joe Gormley has reached 170 goals with Cliftonville, equalling the great Kevin McGarry's record

CLIFTONVILLE supporter Tim McGarry expressed his delight at Joe Gormley equalling Kevin McGarry’s goal-scoring feat of 170 goals against Ards last weekend and fully expects the Reds favourite to set a new goal record that will never be broken.

Kevin McGarry – Tim’s uncle – notched his incredible goal haul between 1948 and 1959 during the club’s amateur days.

Gormley grabbed a brace in Cliftonville’s 3-1 win over Ards last weekend to go level with McGarry, with both the striker and Tim McGarry hoping he breaks the record in Friday night’s north Belfast derby with Crusaders at Seaview.

“I’m delighted for Joe,” said Tim.

“I’ve been a big Reds follower for years. He’s a goal machine. I was a big fan of Chris Scannell and he came close to breaking it but unfortunately he got a couple of really bad injuries… You forget Joe was out for a year or two for us. And even when we’re playing crap he still manages to score.”

The affable local comedian revealed his uncle – who went on to manage the north Belfast club and later became president – had the chance to sign for Manchester United but his father resisted the English club’s overtures.

“In those days, football was a very insecure career. So my grandfather made him finish his medical degree and he became a GP. He was obviously a very good player.

“I never saw Kevin play but older people tell me he was magnificent, and they also tell me he was a greedy b*****d because he always went for goal - like all good strikers.

“But they were different times. Cliftonville were at the bottom of the league back in those days, there was no relegation, so the number of goals he scored was really incredible even though he played more seasons than Joe.”

McGarry played a few games for Belfast Celtic before he moved to the Reds. He was also the inaugural winner of the Ulster Player of the Year award back in 1951 and earned a few caps for Northern Ireland.

He had spells with a couple of League of Ireland clubs – Dundalk and Sligo – before returning to his spiritual home and eventually took the managerial reins.

He passed away in 1995, aged 70.

Tim added: “I’m very proud of the connection my family has with Cliftonville but I’m 100 per cent delighted for Joe. My only difficulty is I’m not going to be there on Friday night to see him beat the record when he puts one past the Crues because I’ve a gig on that night.

“Joe will hit 200 goals, no bother, if he stays another season or two – maybe even this season the way he’s going.”

Gormley has bagged 14 goals in 12 games in the current campaign but the striker says he probably won’t reflect on his remarkable goals tally until he retires from football.

“I never thought I would score that many,” said Gormley, who signed from local Amateur League club Crumlin Star in 2011.

“I remember Chris Scannell got injured and I got in the team and I listened to what Tommy [Breslin] and ‘Minto’ [Peter Murray] said to me and it’s obviously worked out in the long run.

“I’d have to give myself a wee bit of credit because I’ve worked hard. I never gave up and I still want to achieve a lot. That’s all it is: hard work and dedication. I love playing for Cliftonville and I want to do everything I can for the club. I do enjoy reaching milestones but I’d rather win league titles than break records.”

Gormley missed a season-and-a-half after a serious knee injury derailed his move to Peterborough United in the 2015-16 season. Upon his return home, he was desperately close to becoming a Crusaders player in January 2017 before the Reds re-signed him at the eleventh hour.

“When I came home I was disillusioned with football. I wanted to play and I wanted to be happy and probably the only place I was going to be happy was at Cliftonville. I’d friends there too. I’d be quiet enough and it probably would have taken me longer to maybe settle at another club.”

Despite battling back from injury, the 28-year-old hit 34 goals for the Reds last season. He suffered some criticism at times from home supporters even though his scoring stats were off the scale.

“Sometimes it gets to you and it is annoying,” he said. “But you have to be professional and blank it out. At the end of the day, people have the right to an opinion on you because they pay in to watch you, so you have to take it on the chin.”

Out of the 170 goals he’s scored, two stand out: a brilliant individual goal against Lisburn Distillery and his 40-yard spectacular against Crusaders at Seaview last season.

“I scored one against Lisburn Distillery – I think it was my second year – and it was ‘live’ on Sky. That was probably one of my favourite goals, and obviously last year’s goal against Crusaders was up there with one of the best I’ve scored.”

Gormley joked: “Some people say I’m very good with my head! I get a bit of stick about my heading ability, so I let on that I’m really good in the air!

“To be honest, through balls and being one-on-one are probably my hardest ones… I probably don’t score enough one-on-ones. When you have time to think about it… when I don’t have time to think about it, that’s when I think I’m at my best.”

Since being sent to watch the Reds – “as punishment” – during his youth, Tim McGarry has seen some fine, and not-so-fine players over the last 40 years or more.

So where does Joe ‘The Goal’ rank?

“I’m old enough to remember the likes of John Platt and you remember the likes of Mickey Donnelly and Marty Tabb. There was Liam Boyce as well…

“Joe has just been incredible for the club. I think the manager calls him Mr Cliftonville, and he kind of is. If he’s not the very, very best that the club has had, he’s certainly in the top three.

“It’s his endeavour. Even when the team’s not playing well, he’s not the type of player who throws his hands up in the air. He just gets on with it. When he goes through one-on-one you just know he’s going to score. When he takes a penalty you know he’s going to score the penalty.

“And in crappy games he’ll score. He can be quiet for 89 minutes and he’ll get a goal. He’s got a striker’s instinct and he’s great shot on him as well. He doesn’t get flustered on the pitch. He’s not a dirty player either; he’s a quiet, soft-spoken guy but he’s bloody good at scoring goals.”

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