Leaders Glentoran in for the long run as they eye title helped by capture of Donnelly

Glentoran FC

It really is as tight as tight can be at the top of the Irish Premiership table with the top four teams battling out to claim the league crown. And, even when you look past leaders Glentoran, Crusaders in second spot, Linfield in third position and Coleraine sitting in fourth, you can’t rule out a late surge from Cliftonville in fifth. The race for the title looks set to be thrilling, gripping and, for some at least, very, very nervy.

But if you look at how Glentoran have acted in the transfer market and concluded that they are the favourites to grab glory, not many fans or pundits would disagree with you. The latest capture gives us evidence that they are steeling themselves for a run-in that would see them elude the challengers just behind them.

Coach Mick McDermott, the former Glentoran, Glenavon, Ballymena and Crusaders central defender, acted swiftly in his role as boss to land attacker Ruaidhri Donnelly, who is aged 27, from Belfast rivals Cliftonville on a transfer deadline-day deal taking him up to 2024 with the high-flying Glens.

It is the latest signing that signals the true intent of the club. McDermott has already recruited Glenavon ace Andrew Mitchell. And they have brought in rear guard operatives in the shape of Caolan Marron and Keith Cowan — and joining them at the club are schemers Seanan Clucas and Ciaran O’Connor.

But there has been some bad news in terms of players who can be chosen to fight the fight in what will be an absorbing climax to the campaign. That’s because Croatian midfield maestro Hrvoje Plum has been side-lined for six months with a cruciate tear. He suffered the knee problem in the 2-1 Premiership reverse by Larne.

Plum will be a big miss for the Glens given that he has enjoyed a superb season so far and managed to be hugely influential in the games which he has played — he is not shy in front of goal either and he’s managed to plunder 13 goals (six of which have been bullet free-kicks). To rub salt in the wound for Glens he has just penned a one-year contract extension.

But those who know just how hard he works will tell you that McDermott will get on with the job in hand because he knows just what it means to the club to be at the summit – and, of course, he hopes that it is the case that they stay there and lift the title.

He explained:

“Going to the top of the table was a marker for our fans and volunteers. It was a big step to show that we are going in the right direction. It was good for the players to be at the top of the table and we hope that we can remain there.”