Paddy McLaughlin praises Cliftonville's battling qualities after draw at Coleraine

Joe Gormley hit a late equaliser for Cliftonville against Coleraine on Saturday

Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine 1 Cliftonville 1

WHEN Joe Gormley hit Cliftonville’s late equaliser at the Coleraine Showgrounds on Saturday, the roar from the sizable travelling support was guttural and intense.

It was as if the emotion that had been bottled up since the news of Tommy Breslin’s untimely death filtered out on Wednesday evening had found a release. Gormley’s act of saluting the Cliftonville fans with his black armband in his fist hammered home the point.

Manager Paddy McLaughlin and his backroom staff worked hard making sure the players were focused for Saturday’s game and he was glad there was no need for excuses on the final whistle.

“On the back of a very emotional couple of days for the club and the players, especially one or two who were close to Tommy, it was difficult to prepare for the game,” the Derry man admitted.

“But fair play to the boys, they got their heads around it and they went and played the game and gave everything they could. Coming away with a point, we’re delighted because we could easily have lost the game and the excuses would have been there for us, but the players wouldn’t accept defeat again.

“They’ve done it so many times in my time here, to refuse to accept defeat, and they got their reward with a good point. We’re happy with it, it’s a point on the board and we’ll move on quickly.”

Eoin Bradley had given Oran Kearney’s side the lead in the 64th minute, but Cliftonville kept battling until Gormley managed to slide home from inside the box as time ticked away.

“It was hard earned. When you go to Coleraine, you know what you’re going to get,” McLauglin added.

“They’re hard working, they’re a strong side and they can be physical and play to their strengths, which every team is entitled to do. We had to go and battle and it’s going to be a really tough place for teams to come away from with anything this year, Oran’s got them well drilled.

“When we scored the equaliser late in the game, you could feel how much it meant, not just to the players but especially to the supporters. The support that we had on the day was unbelievable. There was some amount of them there. It’s the biggest support I’ve seen in the Irish League in a long time and you could feel how much it meant to them.

“We’re delighted that Joe done what he does so well. He comes up with big moments in big games and fair play to him and fair play to the boys. They rolled their sleeves up and they dug it out.”

Cliftonville host Glenavon tomorrow night in what is sure to be an emotional night at Solitude and McLauglin is determined his players put on a performance to match the occasion.

“Glenavon are another title contender, surely to God,” he said.

“Gary [Hamilton] has assembled a really strong squad over the last couple of years and he’s done a brilliant job with Glenavon. He’s made them a top three team over the last couple of seasons, so it’s going to be a difficult night for us on Tuesday,

“It’s be another emotional night, but I’m sure the boys will do their best for the club and their desire to win and avoid defeat has been unreal since I’ve been there. Hopefully, the support on Tuesday night will get us over the line and we’ll get the three points on board.

Also on Saturday, Premiership new boys Larne handed out a 6-0 opening day thrashing to Warrenpoint Town at Inver Park. Martin Donnelly and David McDaid both scored twice, while skipper Jeff Hughes and former Arsenal midfielder Mark Randall also on target with a stunning long-range effort.

Champions Linfield opened their title defence with a 3-1 victory over Institute at Windsor Park, while Crusaders beat Carrick Rangers 3-0. At Stangmore Park, Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena United played out a 2-2 draw.

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