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Friday 29 Mar 2024
Linfield brush aside Glentoran in Irish Cup semi-final

It was a good Friday evening for Linfield in east Belfast as they strode into the final of this season’s Clearer Water Irish Cup.

David Healy’s side bossed their last four match against Glentoran and deservedly ran out 3-1 winners at The Oval to book their place in the decider.

Two sweet hits from Kyle McClean (pictured) and another from Joel Cooper secured the victory for the south Belfast side.

Given the history between Belfast’s traditional Big Two, it was no real surprise that tackles went flying in from the start, with both sides showing full commitment.

Once the game settled down, Linfield started to dictate proceedings in front of 5600 fans at Glentoran’s home ground.

The first decent chance in the Irish Cup semi-final came on 13 minutes when Linfield winger Kirk Millar whipped in a corner. Striker Matthew Fitzpatrick rose above the Glens defence but could only direct his header over the top.

Just before that Josh Archer fired an excellent cross into the penalty area but it evaded his fellow Linfield attackers.

In the 25th minute Declan Devine’s Glens had a huge chance to open the scoring.

Shay McCartan launched a free-kick to the back post where Aidan Wilson got in behind the Linfield defence and nodded the ball across the face of goal to the onrushing James Singleton, whose close range diving header went inches past the post.

Then Millar produced a dangerous delivery from a free-kick, but no-one could get on the end of it.

On 33 minutes Linfield marksman Cooper opened the scoring. McClean launched a cross from close to the touchline which dropped over the head of Fitzpatrick. Singleton headed the ball clear inside the area, however it went straight to Cooper and he blasted it home from 14 yards.

Minutes later McClean produced another delicious cross to find Fitzpatrick in the area, however his looping header sailed over the bar.

Central defender Daniel Finlayson put a header wide of the target as the Blues continued to push forward after the interval.

McClean scored with a superb strike to make it 2-0 to Linfield in the 52nd minute.

A Millar free-kick was met by Finlayson at the back post. He headed it across goal where Glens keeper Aaron McCarey palmed it away. However, the ball struck Bobby Burns and bounced out to McClean who smashed it into the net through a sea of players from 10 yards.

Down the other end a McCartan corner found Singleton and his header dipped over the bar, while Millar then screwed a shot inches past the post for the Blues.

The Glens huffed and puffed as they tried to find a way back into the game. Too often their final ball let them down.

However, Jay Donnelly teed up McCartan nicely in the 73rd minute and he was unlucky to see his rasping drive from 25 yards come back off the post.

In the 82nd minute Glentoran pulled one back. Paddy McClean whipped in a cross which was tucked past Linfield keeper Chris Johns by Glens substitute Junior.

The Glens’ hopes of a stirring comeback were shortlived, however, when McClean netted his second of the night just two and a half minutes later – and it was another peach of a goal.

A Cooper corner was headed out by Glens defender Paddy McClean, but the ball fell to his namesake on the edge of the penalty area and the midfielder smashed it into the net to make it 3-1.

Larne will face Cliftonville at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in the second semi-final tomorrow (5.30pm). The winner will play Linfield at the National Stadium in the final on Saturday 4 May.

Glentoran: Aaron McCarey, Aidan Wilson, Bobby Burns, Paddy McClean, Luke McCullough (captain), Fuad Sule, Niall McGinn, James Singleton, Jay Donnelly, Shay McCartan, Daire O’Connor.

Substitutes: (used) Rhys Marshall, Chukwuemeka Uzokwe (Junior); (unused) Oliver Webber (GK), Marcus Kane, Harry Murphy, Charlie Lindsay, Jonathan Russell.

Linfield: Chris Johns, Ethan McGee, Matthew Clarke, Daniel Finlayson, Ben Hall, Jamie Mulgrew (captain), Kirk Millar, Kyle McClean, Joel Cooper, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Joshua Archer.

Substitutes: (used) Michael Newberry, Darragh McBrien, Chris Shields; (unused) David Walsh (GK), Jordan Stewart, Rhys Annett, Braiden Graham.