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Friday 01 Apr 2022
PREVIEW | Reds and Crues prepare for derby tussle in Irish Cup

Any game between Cliftonville and Crusaders is usually a lively affair. Down the years the north Belfast rivals have served up some incredible tussles in league and cup.

And tonight’s Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup semi-final between the two teams has the potential to be a real humdinger, too.

Both sides are in fine fettle ahead of the encounter at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park (7.45 start).

Paddy McLaughlin’s Cliftonville, who have been playing some scintillating football this term, are breathing down Linfield’s neck at the top of the NIFL Danske Bank Premiership and they have already won the League Cup this season.

In recent weeks Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders have been in great form. They are currently lying fourth in the table and have won five out of their last six matches in league and cup.

The teams last met at the end of February when the Reds ran out 3-1 winners in a NIFL Premiership game at Solitude. 

Goals from Jonny Addis, Ryan Curran and Levi Ives were enough to see off the Crues that day and those three along with the likes of veteran striker Joe Gormley and Paul O'Neill could be key players for Cliftonville tonight.

Paddy McLaughlin, who has been named manager of the month twice this season already by the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Association, will no doubt be keen to take another step towards ending the club’s Irish Cup hoodoo when they meet their north Belfast rivals in the south of the city. 

The Reds have not lifted the trophy since 1979, while the Crues last won it in 2019 when they defeated Ballinamallard United 3-0 in the final. 

After a topsy-turvy start Crusaders have had a pretty solid season to date under the guidance of long-serving manager Stephen Baxter and they will look to the likes of impressive striker/midfielder Ben Kennedy and club stalwart Paul Heatley to provide the spark tonight. 

The experienced Philip Lowry has also been in fine form over the past few months, and Ross Clarke is another player who has looked sharp lately. 

Defenders Billy Joe Burns and Robbie Weir are consistent performers for the Crues and they know they will have to be on their toes to thwart the Red machine.

BBC Sport NI is streaming tonight’s Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup semi-final. It will be available to view on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport NI website.


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