Glentoran boss Mick McDermott believes Aaron McCarey proved himself one the best goalkeepers in the Irish League with his late heroics at Solitude.
While two-goal Jay Donnelly bagged the headlines in Monday night’s entertaining 2-1 win over Cliftonville, McCarey also earned praise for a couple of superb saves at the death.
The 30-year-old, who joined the Glens from the Reds in July, denied Kris Lowe a late equaliser with a stunning one-handed parry high to his right.
And the former Wolves shot stopper repeated the trick with another flying save to divert Levi Ives’ injury-time free-kick out for a corner.
“Aaron made a couple of great saves and that’s why he’s there,” said McDermott. “On his day, I believe he is the best goalkeeper in the league.
“What are his strengths? Everything. He makes brilliant saves, he has got a presence about him and he’s a big personality and voice in the dressing room.
“Yes, he conceded a couple against Larne a couple of weeks ago which weren’t great and it was an off day for him, but other than that he has been superb.
“He has been fantastic for us and I think you saw his quality tonight.”
Cliftonville led through a superb strike from Jamie McDonagh before Donnelly turned the game on its head with two goals either side of the break.
The league’s top goalscorer levelled with a glancing finish in the 45th minute and headed home his 23rd goal of the season to make it 2-1 five minutes into the second-half.
McDermott said: “Cliftonville started better than us and scored a great goal through Jamie McDonagh but after that we started moving the ball well and created a few chances.
“We equalised with a great goal from Jay and it was a great time to score. We then started the second half with intensity and deserved our second goal.
“We probably sat off them after that, they also changed their shape and threw everything at us near the end, but we dug in for a big three points.”
Seanan Clucas could have added a third for the Glens at the death when he threatened to round off a three-on-one break, but the midfielder fired over with only the keeper to beat.
“Seanan could have wrapped it up and that would have been goodnight,” said McDermott. “It would have been nice in front of our fans, but it wasn’t to be.
“Overall we are pleased to come away with a win and I thought it was a fantastic atmosphere. It was a great advert for the Irish League.”
Monday night’s victory saw Glentoran leapfrog Cliftonville up to second in the table, three points off leaders Linfield with 16 games left.