Congratulations to Glentoran. What a performance from Alan McDonald’s side to reach the Setanta Sports Cup final.
Back in August I tipped the Glens to win the Irish League title, but not for one second did I think they would be competing for All-Ireland honours.
After hammering Linfield at Windsor Park and overcoming St Pat’s at the Oval in the group stages they made it through to the semi-finals where they enjoyed a famous 1-0 triumph in Drogheda on Monday night.
It was an incredible victory over the cash strapped eircom League side, who were desperate to win and earn themselves some much needed revenue.
In the face of intense pressure, the Glens held firm.
Defensively they were magnificent with Sean Ward outstanding.
Had Northern Ireland defended as well in their away matches in the World Cup qualifying campaign so far, Nigel Worthington’s side would have a great chance of going to South Africa in 2010.
What made the result even more impressive from a Glentoran point of view was that they finished the game with only NINE men.
Leading 1-0 through an early Jason Hill goal, the Glens were being penned in by the home side.
Personally I thought the Glens were defending a little too deep, but it’s a natural reaction when your goal is being constantly threatened.
Anyway after another ball into the box, Declan O’Brien tumbled over after a challenge from Paul Leeman. Yes, it was a penalty, but for me it was never a red card with another defender in a covering position.
Leeman was unfortunate and when he saw red, few would have given the Glens much hope of hanging on, such is his inspiration to the side.
He’s captain marvel for the Glens, that’s for sure.
Thankfully for his and Glentoran’s
sake Paul Keegan smashed his spot-kick against the bar.
Drogheda maintained the pressure but the Glens were strong enough in mind and body to keep them at bay, despite Hill’s sending off for two bookings, which was deserved, late on.
Leeman and Hill are such big team players they will have seen the result as much more important than their individual dismissals which rules them out of the final. That sort of attitude is helping the Glens, who moved to the top of the Irish League table last weekend thanks to a typical classy finish from Gary Hamilton.
All of a sudden the Glens are on a roll. Manager Alan McDonald and his canny coaches George Neill and Scott Young deserve credit for that.
The only Irish League side to win the Setanta Cup is Linfield. Back in 2005.
Glentoran — All-Ireland champions 2008 would have a certain ring to it around east Belfast.
Right now they are just 90 minutes away.