Super sub Declan Caddell ensured cup holders Crusaders will face Ballymena United in a repeat of last year’s Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup Final.
In today’s Irish Cup semi-final at Mourneview Park the experienced Crues midfielder showed great composure in added time to net the only goal of the game against Dungannon Swifts – with his first touch after coming off the bench in the 90th minute.
Although the Swifts battled hard throughout, Stephen Baxter’s team had the better of the chances during the match and deservedly reached the 7 May decider.
The first half was lively, however there was very little in the way of goalmouth action.
The first meaningful moment of the opening 20 minutes saw Dungannon dangerman Rhyss Campbell hobble off the pitch to be replaced by Marc Walsh.
The first clearcut chance came two minutes later. Crusaders winger Ross Clarke fired in a free-kick which was met by midfielder Philip Lowry and his powerful header was superbly pushed out by Swifts keeper Declan Dunne.
Then Jordan Forsythe’s low strike from a free-kick was comfortably gathered by Dunne, while Forsythe also had an effort which was wide of the target.
In the 37th minute Lowry picked out Paul Heatley down the left and he unleashed a low shot which hit the side netting.
As the half wore on the Crues peppered the Swifts area with crosses, however the Dungannon defence stood firm.
Just after the break Heatley was inches away from connecting with a whipped delivery from Rory McKeown. And then Heatley got on the end of a flick-on from Crues substitute Jordan Owens, however his sharp half-volley drifted inches wide of the post.
In the 54th minute Forsythe produced a superb left foot volley from 25 yards which Dunne managed to push onto the post. It was a great fingertip save.
Dungannon’s Joe Moore fired the ball over the top eight yards out as the game began to open up.
On the hour mark Heatley bamboozled the Swifts defence with some fancy footwork before clipping the ball past the upright.
The Dungannon defence, superbly marshalled by Caolan Marron and Dean Curry, had to work overtime to thwart the Crues as they tried to turn the screw. Curry put in a superb tackle as Heatley bore down on goal.
The winner came two minutes into added time. Substitute Caddell, who just a few months back came out of retirement to help ease an injury crisis at the club, was only on the pitch two minutes when he got on the end of a through ball from Heatley and ran on to expertly lob the keeper. It was a cool finish.
Ballymena booked their place in the May final after defeating Larne 2-0 in the other semi-final last night. And David Jeffrey’s Sky Blues will no doubt be out for revenge after the Crues produced a stirring comeback to win the trophy last year.
Dungannon Swifts: Declan Dunne, Caolan Marron, James Knowles, Ryan Mayse (captain), Rhyss Campbell, Dean Curry, Cahal McGinty, Ethan McGee, Joe Moore, Jordan Jenkins, Mayowa Animasahun.
Substitutes: (used) Marc Walsh, Joe McCready, Ben Cushnie, Padraig Lynch; (unused) Dwayne Nelson (GK), Steven Scott, Gerardo Bruna.
Crusaders: Jonathan Tuffey, Billy Joe Burns, Daniel Larmour, Joshua Robinson, Philip Lowry, Ross Clarke, Rory McKeown, Jordan Forsythe, Jude Winchester, Jordan Forsythe, Paul Heatley.
Substitutes: (used) Jordan Owens, Dean Ebbe, Declan Caddell: (unused) Tom Murphy (GK), Chris Hegarty, Robert Weir, Jarlath O’Rourke.
Image: Declan Caddell scores the winner.