CLIFTONVILLE enter into new territory at the weekend as they participate in the Irn-Bru Scottish Challenge Cup for the very first time.

Due their second-place finish in the league last season, the Reds will join champions Linfield in the competition.

Last month’s third round draw threw the Solitude side a home tie with Scottish Championship side Queens Park to take place on Sunday (1.45pm kick-off).

Under the guidance of former Bolton and Burney boss Owen Coyle, Queens Park have made a solid start to the season, having been promoted from League One last season.

McLaughlin admits he has had good reports from former Reds player Daire O’Connor who plays in the Championship for Ayr United and stressed his desire to go far in the competition.

“We’ve got Daire O’Connor keeping an eye for us over there,” he revealed.

“He was one of our players from a few years ago and he’s been telling us how good they are.

“They’re obviously a full-time team and a lot of investment has went into the club very recently, so they’ll be difficult.

“If they are anything like we face in the Irish League it will be a tough tie and a tough game. We don’t expect it to be anything different.

“It will be a good break from the league, but we want to try and stay in, if not win the competition, so we’ll treat it with the utmost respect and go about it as we always do - trying to win the game.”

The Reds go into the weekend’s game off the back of seven straight wins in all competitions and McLaughlin has called on his players to maintain the hard work that they’ve shown in recent weeks.

“We were always confident when we see the side that we have and some of the players that aren’t even stripped out,” McLaughlin reflected.

“We’ve a really strong panel of players and we’re always confident in any game, but obviously results gives us that extra edge as well in your game.

“I’m sure the confidence that they have before, it will be building, and momentum is building. We’re getting results and we have the key players to come back from injury.

“The boys are in a good place, but we know ourselves, there is a long, long way to go over the course of the season.

“There will be a lot of bumps along the way, it’s taking the hits and dealing with them just like we’ve taken the wins.

“We don’t get too high when win and don’t get too low when we lose and it’s important, we maintain that and maintain our hard work.”

Ronan Hale’s match-winner on Saturday pleased his manager who is adamant that he has saw all the qualities and more that prompted the hot interest in the former Larne striker last January.

“He’s a brilliant centre-forward, he’s aggressive and he wants to score goals all the time,” said McLaughlin.

“He plays on the front foot and he’s always trying to get strikes away and get away from people.

“That’s why we pushed so hard and worked so hard to get him to the club.

“When we got him, we were delighted, and he’s shown us everything we thought he was about and probably more. I’m delighted to have him on board.

“Joe is the same, they’re hungry to score goals. Ryan Curran has been brilliant for us this year, scoring goals and those three boys together over the course of the season are going to be key for us.”