Elliott Morris used the occasion of his 700th appearance as the last line of Glentoran’s defence to look forward to what the celebrated goalkeeper considers a bright future with his beloved Belfast club.
Morris’ landmark afternoon failed to feature a clean sheet as a second-half Stephen Murray penalty kick left it level at the final whistle in Lurgan.
However, Morris had the perfect viewpoint from between the posts of a sparkling first-half Glens display that offered encouragement and produced a reward after the break off a Robbie McDaid header.
“We are looking good, we’ve signed some good players and we are strong at the back, with a bit of midfield quality and boys up front who will always get goals,” said Morris. “We are not getting carried away but aim to stick up there in the top six and, fingers crossed, get into a good position.
“For the first 20 minutes I never touched the ball today and we were really strong, by far the better side.
“The second half was scrappy, both teams humping balls and half-chances, so we can be disappointed not to get the three points.
“I’ve been here many a time and it’s always a tough place to come, so it’s a positive sign we are coming away frustrated.
“In terms of reaching 700 games, it’s a tally I’d never expect to get, a marvellous achievement and something I’m really proud of and honoured, not just to play so many times but to do it for a club like Glentoran.
“I owe a lot to so many people over that time but think back to the support from Davy McClelland as my goalkeeper coach a few years ago during what was a difficult time with my back and other injuries.
“We took a step back together and without that help I’d probably not still be playing.
“Now I’ve no major complaints so am feeling fit and healthy for the future.”
Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton described Morris’ achievement as ‘a staggering statistic’ and praised both the person and player.
“For Elliott to achieve that with one club is scary, especially given the injuries that held him back,” said Hamilton. “He’s a great guy off the field and brilliant professional, someone young players should always look up to as an example.
“I’ll always respect his loyalty to Glentoran and I’m sure over the years lots of clubs looked at someone of Elliott’s stature but he stayed loyal.
“Certainly over the years against us he has won Glentoran more points probably than anyone else.”
On a day in which the spotlight centred on veteran Morris, Hamilton took time out to highlight the potential of a player still in the early stages of his career.
“Anyone who watches Caolan Marron play will think he has a real chance of going across the water,” said Hamilton. “He’s as good as I’ve seen in my time in the Irish League.
“After we played Molde he never gave their star striker a kick and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was talking about Caolan after the tie.
“I cannot sing his praises high enough, especially for someone aged just 20 years old.
“If he keeps working hard with his feet on the ground he has a real chance.
“There are very few centre-backs strong in the air, can run and good on the ball.
“He’s got everything and even with lacking a little bit of height he more than makes up for it with his strength in the air and timing of jumps.
“We don’t allow him to do it in games as a centre-back but in training he dribbles and beats players for fun.
“I would have no qualms playing Caolan centre midfield, right-wing or right-back, he’s such a talented boy.”