Football/Soccer

Ryan Catney 'devastated' to be leaving Cliftonville - but won't quit playing

Ryan Catney will miss "everything" about Cliftonville as he prepares to leave the club at the end of the season

RYAN Catney has revealed he is “devastated” to be leaving Cliftonville – but still wants to play in the Irish Premiership next season.

The Reds released a statement on Wednesday to confirm the veteran midfielder’s departure at the end of the season after 12 distinguished years at the club.

The 32-year-old hasn’t figured in new manager Paddy McLaughlin’s plans since the Derryman took the reins in January as he attempts to rebuild the first team squad with younger players.

“I’m not going to lie,” said Catney. “I’m devastated to be leaving. Cliftonville has been a big part of my life. I love the club, I’m a fan.

“I always envisaged retiring here but sometimes that’s not the way football works. I suppose when one chapter closes, another one opens and I’m looking forward to playing on.”

Catney was an integral member of the Cliftonville sides that clinched back-to-back league titles in 2012/13 and 2013/14 under former boss Tommy Breslin.

In their first title-winning season, he was voted the club’s player of the year.

Signed from Lisburn Distillery in 2007, the teak-tough defensive midfielder also claimed four League Cup winners medals and won the Co Antrim Shield on three occasions during his time at Solitude.

A firm favourite with the Cliftonville faithful, Catney was something of an all-year-round panto villain among opposition supporters.

He formed an uncompromising midfield partnership with Barry Johnston and was one of the bedrocks of club’s unprecedented period of success.

In January 2017 he suffered a horrific broken leg after a collision with Crusaders defender Howard Beverland that kept him out of football for a year-and-a-half.

Against the odds, he returned to first team action and played 25 games under Barry Gray this season before the manager made way for McLaughlin in January.

“Obviously since Paddy has come in I haven’t featured, I haven’t been making squads,” he said.

“I’ve played 25 games from August to the middle of January. I think I missed one game.

“From the new manager has come in I haven’t played. A new manager will always have new ideas and he’s going to go with youth and I haven’t got youth on my side unfortunately, so that’s basically where I stand.

“I need to be playing every week. There’s no point in me sitting on the bench and not playing. I wouldn’t do that to the club, I wouldn’t do it to myself; I’ve a bit more self-respect than just picking up a wage.

“I’ve a great relationship with Gerard Lawlor [club chairman] and he knew I didn’t want to be sitting on the bench. I’ve never done that in my career.”

The Reds host Crusaders in their last home game of the season tomorrow but Solitude could still see some more action should they reach the Europa League qualification play-off berth.

Catney, though, doesn’t know if he’ll be involved in tomorrow’s squad to say his goodbyes to the Reds fans who offered him unstinting support over the last 12 years.

Despite being surplus to requirements Catney insists he felt fitter than ever this season and because he missed 17 months with the leg break he has no plans to quit playing.

“I felt good when I came back. If I’m being honest I didn’t expect to play that many games,” he said.

“I played 25 games. Barry Gray was the manager at the time and he thought I was obviously doing well. In those 25 games I didn’t feel I was blowing hard, I knew in my heart that I could still play at that level.

“It would be different if I’d played those games and felt: ‘I can’t do this any more.’

“I still feel I’ve plenty to offer this league and if someone is going to take a chance on me I have plenty to offer.”

Catney added: “I want to play on but I would find it hard playing against Cliftonville.

“I lost two years of my career and I put a lot into getting back, so if I didn’t continue playing all that work would have been a waste of time. My plan is to play on and I’d prefer to do that in the Irish Premier.”

Catney thanked Lawlor for giving him a new contract when he was sidelined with a broken leg and says he will miss everything about Solitude.

“It’s the wee silly things I’ll miss – the ground staff, the people you see at training every week. Cliftonville is a real family club and it’s the same faces that go to the games.

“I’ll miss everything about it. Player-wise, my best mate is probably the youngest in the squad, Levi Ives, as I travel with him to the matches and training and we go for breakfast before games. And you obviously have the likes of Joe [Gormley] who I’ve played with for a very long time, the [Jaimie] McGoverns, the [Stevie] Garretts – I’ve been with these boys for a while. And all the younger boys are coming through. I know my chapter is closing but I’m looking at the players coming through and I’m excited for the club.

“Am I proud of what I achieved at Cliftonville? I am. But it hasn’t really sunk in. It’s only when people start talking to me about stats and my appearances… When I look back, especially that period when we were winning things, how good those times were and how good that team was. It’ll probably go down as the best team the club has produced.

“It was the madness that came with the success. They were great, great times.”

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