CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin believes that Larne are a side that teams look forward to playing against because of their attacking style.
The Reds will make the trip to Inver Park to Saturday (5.30pm kick-off, live on BBC I Player) for a winner-takes-all European play-off final clash with the Inver Reds, with the victors gaining a place in the qualifiers of newly formed Europa Conference League next season.
Larne left it late to defeat Glenavon 2-1 at Inver Park on Tuesday evening, while the Reds needed penalties to see off North Belfast rivals Crusaders.
McLaughlin insists that there is a lot of respect for Larne and their manager, Tiernan Lynch, and praised the top-quality players they have on show.
“They’re a very good footballing side and especially at home they are excellent,” insists McLaughlin.
“They are one of the sides you actually look forward to playing sometimes because the ball never leaves the ground too often and some other clubs, you’re heading the ball constantly. They’re a very good side and one of the most respected sides in the division with a respected manager in Tiernan Lynch.
“They’re real top-quality players and a lot of ex-Red men there and sometimes when you play against your old club you want to show how good you are. There is a lot of things in the game that will set us up well.
“The European qualification is the big thing, but a few ex-players there and two good footballing sides. It should set us up for a good game, so hopefully we don’t disappoint and can get the win.”
⚽️ Cliftonville FC have made strenuous efforts to obtain tickets for our supporters for Saturday’s European Play-Off Final at Inver Park, but have unfortunately been advised by Larne that they are unable to make any available to us.— Cliftonville FC (@cliftonvillefc) June 3, 2021
➡️ https://t.co/MBxNjWpatT pic.twitter.com/KTlHA0u3B1
McLaughlin doesn’t worry about getting his players fired up for the match despite acknowledging fatigue is there from Tuesday’s derby clash.
“The only problem we’ll have is getting our boys out of their beds because they are hanging together,” he acknowledges.
“It was a bruising game and high intensity. Crusaders bring a physicality and it’s hard to deal with at times.
“We stood up to the challenge really well but a couple of bodies in there are sore at the minute. It’s all about recovery between now and Saturday and we’ll assess what we have to work with.
“There will be no problem getting the boys fired up for it because after what they have done against Crusaders with the turnaround after the first half performance was superb. Whatever team we have fit to play on Saturday will be more than capable of going and getting a result and more than capable of firing themselves up for it.
“It’s such an important game for the club, the prestige of playing in Europe for the players is massive and also the financial reward that comes for the club.
“We understand the importance of it so there will be no problem getting anyone fired up for Saturday.”
McLaughlin was pleased with his players’ performance on Tuesday, especially centre-back Jamie Harney who recovered from an early head wound and battled through with a back injury.
“I’m delighted with them all, no more so than Harney” McLaughlin reflected.
“I thought Kris Lowe was immense for us too. Harney got busted open early in the game and he’s had four staples in a head wound. A week ago, his season was over because he’s had a chronic back injury that he’s been plagued by his whole career.
“Any less of a man wouldn’t have played and his season would have been over two or three weeks ago.
“He just lives and breathes Cliftonville and that’s how important he is to us.
“He’s gone against all the medical advice that he has been given the last while and put his body on his line again, so fair play to him - he is an absolute warrior of a man.”