Sunday 18 March 2018

Celtic assured visit to Belfast will be trouble-free

Celtic Manager Neil Lennon
Celtic Manager Neil Lennon

By Joe McHugh

Celtic have been reassured that their Champions League clash with Cliftonville will be trouble-free.

Three nights of rioting in Loyalist areas have stretched the resources of PSNI with re-enforcements brought in from other areas, including Scotland, over the weekend.

Cliftonville’s Solitude ground is in the north of the city with Wednesday’s game played in front of 5,000 fans with thousands more Celtic fans travelling to watch the match in the west of the city.

Celtic have never played a competitive match in Northern Ireland with Cliftonville and PSNI doing all in their power to ensure a trouble free occasion.

A spokesperson for PSNI said: “As with any major event, police take all available information into consideration when making preparations. Plans and resources are in place to ensure that this occasion passes off peacefully.”

As soon as the draw was made there was speculation that the match would be moved away from Solitude but Cliftonville resisted the opportunity to cash in and have installed a temporary stand to increase their capacity from 2,800 to almost 5,000.

Looking at the security situation chairman Gerard Lawlor said: “We have no concerns whatsoever. The events of the past few days will have absolutely no effect on the game in any way, shape or form. There will be no violence inside the stadium or in its vicinity.”

On the pitch Neil Lennon doesn’t have his worries to seek on the back of four defeats from their pre-season tour of Germany and a growing injury list.

The departure of Victor Wanyama to Southampton and uncertainty over Gary Hooper’s future have left Celtic short of options with 20-year-old Australian defender Jackson Irvine in contention to start against Cliftonville after playing the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 defeat from Union Berlin on Friday.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s match Lennon admitted: “It's so early, it's a harsh reality of where we are.”


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