League champions Glentoran Women secured the double by defeating Cliftonville Ladies in the final of the Electric Ireland Women’s Challenge Cup this evening.
Cliftonville bossed the first half, but Glentoran turned on the style after the break and scored three goals without reply to retain the trophy in front of 1700 spectators at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.
The Glens’ fifth consecutive Irish FA Women’s Challenge Cup success thwarted Cliftonville’s efforts to secure a cup treble this year.
The Reds, who had already won the NIFL Women’s Premiership League Cup and the Co Antrim Women’s Cup in 2023, have not lifted the Electric Ireland-sponsored cup since 2015.
Cliftonville, who finished second behind the Glens in the Sports Direct Women’s Premiership title race this season, were the better team in the first half of the cup final.
The first real chance of the match came after 15 minutes when Cliftonville midfielder Toni-Leigh Finnegan fizzed a free-kick just wide of the upright from 30 yards.
On the half-hour mark Reds striker Caitlin McGuinness tucked home a Marissa Callaghan pass from close range, however the ‘goal’ was chalked off because McGuinness strayed offside in the build-up.
A minute later Kirsty McGuinness beat the offside trap and raced towards goal. Glens keeper Ashleigh McKinnon raced off her line to meet her. McGuinness poked the ball past the keeper but her effort drifted wide of the target.
In the 41st minute the Glens, who had shown little going forward up until that point, came close to going in front.
Demi Vance whipped in a corner which evaded Cliftonville keeper Rachael Norney and was met by Nadene Caldwell. The midfielder’s header inside the six-yard box struck the post and then bounced off Reds midfielder Louise McDaniel’s head onto the post. Caldwell poked the rebound goalwards but it was cleared by McDaniel.
Just before the break Glens midfielder Chloe McCarron fired in a shot from distance which skidded past the post.
The Glens were a different team in the second half. They upped the tempo and pushed the Reds back.
Just after the break Vance evaded a couple of markers and clipped the ball to player of the match Caldwell at the back post but she could only guide it wide.
Glentoran took the lead in the 55th minute. Emily Wilson fired in a cross which was headed clear by Reds defender Kelsie Burrows, however the ball fell at the feet of Kerry Beattie who took a touch before smashing it into the net from 12 yards.
Vance had a couple of efforts before she delivered the ball that led to Glentoran’s second goal. It came in the 77th minute when Andrews tapped the ball to Vance at a corner and her cross into the area was met by Emma McMaster. The defender’s powerful header deflected off a couple of Reds defenders before crossing the goal-line.
Glens substitute Kascie Weir tested Norney with a couple of low drives as the Glens continued to press.
Cliftonville captain Marissa Callaghan forced a save out of McKinnon before Reds midfielder Victoria Carleton was shown a red card on 85 minutes for a high tackle on Vance.
Five minutes later Glentoran grabbed their third. A pinpoint Vance cross found Weir down the right and she pulled the ball back to substitute Rachel Rogan who neatly slotted the ball past Norney to make it 3-0 – and that was the final score.
Cliftonville Ladies: Rachael Norney, Abbie Magee, Hannah Doherty, Kelsie Burrows, Toni-Leigh Finnegan, Louise McDaniel, Danielle Maxwell, Marissa Callaghan (captain), Caitlin McGuinness, Victoria Carleton, Kirsty McGuinness.
Substitutes: (used) Claire Shaw, Orleigha McGuinness; (unused) Fionnuala Morgan, Tara Reilly, Katie Markey, Chelsea Irvine, Aisling Anderson.
Glentoran Women: Ashleigh McKinnon, Sarah Tweedie, Jessica Foy (captain), Annie Timoney, Emma McMaster, Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Joely Andrews, Kerry Beattie, Emily Wilson, Demi Vance.
Substitutes: (used) Kascie Weir, Rachel Rogan, Jenna McKearney, Kelly Bailie; (unused) Rachel McIntyre, Megan Neill, Maeve McConaghy.