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Friday 05 Jan 2024
Ruthless Ronan fires Reds through after extra-time

Ruthless Ronan Hale bagged an extra-time hat-trick to blast Cliftonville to a three-goal victory over Coleraine in the Clearer Water Irish Cup at The Showgrounds.

The game got off to a promising start with both keepers being called into action within the opening couple of minutes.

Ronan Hale produced a low to save to his left from Coleraine's Rory Brown - making his debut for the Bannsiders following his switch from Glenavon this week - while, at the other end, David Odumosu was tested by Lee Lynch.

The bright start continued moments later after Cliftonville's Ben Wilson went on a run down the left before crossing the ball for Sean Stewart in front of goal but his finish fell the wrong side of the post.

Both camps had further chances as the first half progressed.

Shea Casey almost made the most of a poor clearance from Brown only for the home keeper to palm the follow up away for a corner before the Bannsiders embarked on a promising move that saw Lynch combine with Jack Scott only for the finish to fall short.

The second half was a fairly robust affair throughout, albeit with many real efforts of note in front of goal.

It did roar into life, however, on 80 minutes when the Reds were reduced to ten men following Sam Ashford's straight red card for a high challenge.

Then, 10 minutes after that, Coleraine also suffered a dismissal after skipper Lyndon Kane collected his second caution of the evening.

The deadlock was finally broken on 104 minutes when Ronan Hale displayed a moment of sheer brilliance to pounce of a loose ball from distance and send an unstoppable strike past Brown into the top corner from fully 25 yards.

Hale then put the issue beyond doubt with four minutes of extra-time remaining after turning his man to clinically finish from just outside the six yard box.

And as if that wasn't enough, he struck again just over 60 seconds later after breaking clear to offer up yet another composed finish.

The action continues in earnest tomorrow with the 15 remaining ties, and it could be a day for shocks!

Holders Crusaders kick off their campaign for a third successive triumph when they entertain Ards at Seaview whilst Ballymena United, runners-up for the last two years, face the tricky prospect of travelling to The Dub to face Queen's University.

Premiership leaders Linfield host Warrenpoint Town with champions Larne making a return to the Blanchflower Stadium to take on HW Welders in a repeat of last season's quarter-final tie that saw Tiernan Lynch's side just about squeeze through.

The biggest David v Goliath clash of the round will see Premiership side Dungannon Swifts take on Willowbank from Amateur League 1B at Stangmore Park.

NIFL Premier Intermediate League side Ballymacash Rangers have reached this stage of the competition for the first time in their history and they are set to face Mid-Ulster Intermediate A opponents Oxford Sunnyside at home.


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