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Friday 26 Apr 2024
Cliftonville’s track record in the Irish Cup

In the run-up to this year’s Clearer Water Irish Cup Final between Cliftonville and Linfield, we are looking back at their respective track records in the competition down the years.

Here Cliftonville FC historian Paul Treanor looks at his club’s performance history in Northern Ireland’s premier cup competition:

As the oldest club in Ireland Cliftonville’s involvement with the Irish Cup goes right back to the competition’s first season when the Reds travelled a short distance to take on Oldpark on 2 February 1881 and won our first competitive game 2-0, with goals from Hannay and Davison.

Cliftonville actually made it to the inaugural final, hosting Moyola Park, but sadly lost 1-0. Our keeper that day was club co-founder Robert Kennedy, with John McAlery in defence.

Curiously the following season the Reds played Avoniel five times. Two drawn games in the first round saw both clubs allowed to progress, only to meet three times in the semi-finals, with Cliftonville progressing only to lose 1-0 to Queen’s Island in the decider.

However, the Reds got their hands on the trophy at the third attempt, beating Ulster 5-0 in May 1883, with goals from Davison, Potts (2) and McWha (2).

The next decade saw us in four more finals, losing to Ulster, Linfield and the Gordon Highlanders, but managing our second win in 1888 by beating Distillery 2-1.

At this time Cliftonville were an amateur team and had no recognised head coach or manager, although the role of head trainer was taken up by Hugh McAteer around 1894/95.

And in his 30-plus years with the Reds he oversaw numerous trophy wins, including two league titles and a remarkable five Irish Cup wins.

McAteer steered the Reds to success in 1897 with a 3-1 victory against the Sherwood Foresters, and then enjoyed four wins against Dublin-based opposition.

Cliftonville overcame Bohemians 2-1 in 1900, Freebooters 1-0 in 1902, and in the first ever replayed final they beat Shelbourne 1-0 in 1907.

Bohemians were beaten once again in 1909, this time it was 1-0, but Distillery stopped the Reds securing a league and cup double by winning the 1910 final by a goal to nil.

Professional sides had by this time begun to dominate football in Ireland and the proud amateurs of Cliftonville struggled to keep up.

Cliftonville only managed to reach two finals in the next 15 years, losing 3-2 to Ards in 1927 and then to Linfield in 1934.

After that it would be another 45 years before the Reds once more graced an Irish Cup Final, and what an occasion it would be.

Cliftonville gave up amateur status in 1972 and the now professional Reds were attracting attention and support.

And while not yet strong enough for a league challenge, they began to progress in cup competitions.

Cliftonville’s first cup final in many years was in the Gold Cup in the 1978-79 season. They lost to Portadown, however an exciting Irish Cup run saw them meet the Ports once more - in the 1979 final.

The biggest crowd at an Irish Cup Final since the late 1960s were treated to a dramatic end to end game. The Reds went behind after only two minutes before responding, and eventually goals from Mike Adair, John Platt and an 89th minute winner from Tony Bell sealed a 3-2 win for Jackie Hutton’s Reds.

It is well recorded that the 1979 win has not yet been successfully followed up.

Cliftonville have reached five finals since that success, losing 1-0 to Glenavon in 1997, followed by the non-final of 1999, and then losing 1-0 to Crusaders in 2009 before a league and cup double was passed up when Glentoran won 3-1 in the 2013 decider. The most recent disappointment came at the hands of Coleraine in 2018.

Cliftonville have played in 362 Irish Cup games across three centuries, winning 163 of them. They have registered 62 draws and 137 defeats, scoring 659 goals and conceding 534.

Up until now the Reds have played in 23 finals, with eight wins, three draws and 12 defeats. They have scored 27 goals and conceded 38 along the way.

The pictures in the gallery below are: the Cliftonville team from 1908-09; 1934 final v Linfield; 1927 final v Ards; trainer Hugh McAteer in 1909; Reds boss Jackie Hutton in 1979; cup final goalscorer John Platt in 1979; Marty Quinn and John Flanagan celebrating in 1979; cup final scorer Mike Adair in 1979; the Cliftonville teams in 1882-83, 1887-88, 1899-00 and 1908-09; the victorious team in May 1979 and Tony Bell, the man who scored the winner in the Irish Cup Final that year.