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Saturday 30 Mar 2024
Cliftonville sink Larne in Irish Cup semi-final

Cliftonville got the better of a lacklustre Larne in the Clearer Water Irish Cup semi-final this afternoon.

Goals from Jonny Addis (main picture) and Ronan Hale saw Jim Magilton’s side win the entertaining contest at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park by two goals to nil.

Cliftonville got their tactics spot on against the NIFL Premiership leaders. They kept Larne’s star players quiet and produced some fine attacking football in front of circa 5700 fans.

The Reds have not lifted the Irish Cup since 1979, but on this showing they will fancy their chances of ending that hoodoo.

It was pretty even in the early skirmishes, although centre back Addis made some important interventions for Cliftonville.

Larne’s Levi Ives delivered a free-kick which was headed on by captain Cian Bolger to striker Lee Bonis and his header towards goal was gathered in by Reds keeper David Odumosu as fellow marksman Andy Ryan was set to pounce.

On 26 minutes Cliftonville left back Sean Stewart got in behind the Larne defence and fired in an inviting cross which was put out for a corner by Aaron Donnelly.

Then Addis headed over the top at the back post as the Reds enjoyed a spell of pressure.

Ryan sped towards the Cliftonville penalty area and was eventually stopped by Casey, however the loose ball fell to Chris Gallagher and his curling shot from 30 yards was superbly pushed over the bar by Odumosu.

Cliftonville took the lead on 34 minutes. Captain Rory Hale played a one-two with Ben Wilson from a corner and then whipped the ball to the back post where Addis headed it powerfully into the net. It was an excellent move.

Stewart delivered a corner which was met by Casey. His header hit the back of a Larne defender and fell to Reds midfielder Kris Lowe just inside the area, however he could not keep his shot down, the ball flying well over the top.

Larne appeared to be rattled, with three players going into the book for rash challenges. Gallagher was given a yellow card for a cynical foul on Rory Hale, while Bolger and Ryan were also booked.

The Inver Reds upped the tempo after the break and on 52 minutes they came close to an equaliser. Ives’ drilled corner was met by centre back Ro-Shaun Williams and his header went inches past the post.

A Rory Hale free-kick found the onrushing Casey inside the area and he planted his header just inches over the bar. And in the 64th minute the Cliftonville skipper smashed a shot just past the upright.

Substitute and Reds icon Joe Gormley lifted an effort over the bar after a penetrating run from Addis ended with the ball reaching the experienced striker.

Larne keeper Rohan Ferguson pushed out a Ronan Hale drive before the action swung to the other end of the pitch where Larne substitute Joe Thomson hit the side netting with a rising shot.

Cliftonville got their second on 85 minutes. Ronan Hale raced forward and played a one-two with Gormley inside the area - and Hale’s deflected shot flew past Ferguson into the net.

Ryan fired well wide as Larne tried to pull one back, while Donnelly’s crisp strike was superbly pushed round the post by Odumosu.

Deep into added time it could have been three to Cliftonville. Ronan Hale broke clear but Ferguson saved two efforts from him at close quarters. And Gormley’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Williams. Gormley then stung the palms of Ferguson with a blaster.

The Reds, who currently lie third in the NIFL Premiership behind Larne and Linfield, will now play Linfield at the National Stadium in the final on Saturday 4 May.

Cliftonville: David Odumosu, Aaron Donnelly, Sean Stewart, Jonathan Addis, Odhran Casey, Kris Lowe, Shea Kearney, Ronan Doherty, Rory Hale (captain), Ben Wilson, Patrick Burns.

Substitutes: (used) Chris Curran, Joe Gormley, Stephen Mallon; (unused) Nathan Gartside (GK), Conor Pepper, Luke Kenny, Leon Graham.

Larne: Rohan Ferguson, Tomas Cosgrove, Aaron Donnelly, Levi Ives, Cian Bolger (captain), Ro-Shaun Williams, Mark Randall, Christopher Gallagher, Andrew Ryan, Lee Bonis, Leroy Millar.

Substitutes: (used) Joe Thomson, Dylan Sloan, Micheal Glynn; (unused) Aidan McAdams (GK), Paul O’Neill, Isaac Westendorf, Jaziel Orozco.