Irish Cup is ‘a dream come true’ for Chris Curran

THE curtain closed on Chris Curran’s remarkable playing career amidst emotional scenes at Windsor Park on Saturday as Cliftonville dramatically ended a 45-year wait to capture the Irish Cup.

After over a decade at the north Belfast club, the Swanlinbar man received the ultimate crescendo as he came off the bench to help Jim Magilton’s side deliver an epic extra-time victory over Linfield.

Romanticism and football don’t always go hand-in-hand, but after he and the club’s record goal-scorer Joe Gormley lifted the trophy, for Curran, it was the perfect swansong.

“You couldn’t really write it, it’s unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to bow out,” said Curran.

“With the way that it happened; it being my last game, it being 45 years since the club won the last one and even the game itself to be 1-0 behind and come back the way we did and have Ronan (Hale) score at the end, it’s really emotional for everyone.

“Then when we were going around the city, you realise how big the club is and how many supporters there are from different parts of Belfast.

“When you’ve grown men coming up to you with tears in their eyes, you know you’ve done something very special.

“To get it over the line after waiting 45 years, it’s just a dream come true for everybody involved in the football club, and it is a really special feeling for me personally retiring on that note.”

Curran’s planned retirement had been kept under wraps until his 88th minute introduction at the National Football Stadium because, in his words, the win was “far more important than any individual storyline”.

And it worked out well. The medal adds to the Irish league title Curran won in his first season at Solitude (2013/14) under the late Tommy Breslin, along with multiple League Cups and County Antrim Shields.

For the former Manchester United youth team player though, this was the “highlight” to a career that began at Ballinamallard United nearly 20 years ago.

“It’s been an incredible career and it’s not one I ever thought I would have,” revealed Curran.

“I didn’t really have any connection or affiliation with an Irish League club growing up, so it wasn’t really on my radar until I signed for Ballinamallard as a young player.

“I was almost 14 when I started playing organised football, up until then it had been all GAA because that’s all I knew and had been exposed to in Swanlinbar.

“So, for this all to happen is crazy really. I couldn’t have really asked for a better career here and two really special clubs in Ballinamallard and Cliftonville that took such good care of me.

“I’d such a good upbringing and from both a playing capacity and as a person they both develop you in the very best way, so I couldn’t have asked for better.”

Curran plans on moving to America in the coming months with his partner Caragh McNeill, who will take up teaching in The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

The options are open but a post-playing career in coaching is in motion.

“I’ve had unbelievable coaches and I couldn’t even go through them all for the fear of missing somebody, but that is the plan,” added Curran.

“I’ve got my UEFA B Licence and I’m working now towards the UEFA A Licence, so I’m glad I started the process of that quite early.

“I’m hoping to try to get those wrapped up in the next year or so. That’s probably the route I’ll take and it’d be nice to be able to get started over in America but we’ll see how that turns out.”

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