Picture perfect for Glentoran as Curtis Allen smashes home winner
Crusaders 0 - 1 Glentoran
Are Glentoran's young players maturing? You better believe it. Don't ever let anyone tell you you can't win anything with kids.
Eddie Patterson's young guns shot down Crusaders' double dream and now a 22nd Irish Cup victory for the club is within reach.
The kids are stepping up to the mark but they need to be guided and it was appropriate that Curtis Allen smashed in the winner at Mourneview Park.
Elliott Morris, Stephen McAlorum and Barry Holland are also elder statesmen who can be relied on and the 1,700 Glens fans who made the journey to Lurgan appreciated the monumental team effort from the boys in red, green and black.
The pitch invasion at the final whistle underlined just how much the fans crave silverware and the players have proved they share that hunger.
Allen has his own painful stories to tell of being left out in the cold at Linfield when the May showpiece comes around but there is no chance of him missing out against Portadown.
"I spoke to my brother after the game and he said I didn't have a lot of time to hit the shot when I got past their defence but it felt like I did and it was a brilliant moment," said the former Coleraine striker.
"Everybody knows it's a massive tournament and the final is a great occasion. Getting to finals does give players vital experience and when I was at Linfield I got to two finals but was unfortunately left out of the team.
"It will be a massive highlight of my career if we could win it. I played in two semi-finals with Linfield but I was left out of the team for the final. It was no fun going to the Ramada Hotel and finding out you've been left out. This means more to me and there's an extra edge to my game because of those disappointments.
"You need big squads to win league titles but an Irish Cup victory could help us take a step in that direction."
He added: "No-one gave us a chance here and I remember driving home hearing Liam Beckett saying he felt Crusaders would win. That suited us and I have to say well done to Eddie and the coaching staff for getting the tactics spot on."
Allen's cool finish in the 39th minute sealed the victory and when Diarmuid O'Carroll struck the crossbar at the death, Crusaders knew their luck was out.
Every Glentoran player was presented with an analysis of where Crusaders might be vulnerable in defence and how to thwart their attacking players.
Glens boss Patterson knew it was "monotonous homework" for the players but the information was absorbed by Allen and Co.
"We knew how much this game meant to the players and credit to them, they did everything we asked of them," said Patterson.
The Glentoran team that lifted the Irish Cup in 2013 was more experienced than this one, with only six surviving players from the squad that rocked Cliftonville - Morris, McAlorum, Jay Magee, Jim O'Hanlon, Davy Howland and Marcus Kane.
Glentoran, after the financial mismanagement that almost sunk the club, will always have their critics but there can be no argument with the phenomenal job Patterson has done on a reduced budget.
For Crusaders, the hangover will linger for some time as the players had a glorious opportunity to become double winners. Perhaps the mental and physical demands of the title race influenced events in mid-Ulster.
Whatever the reasons, back-to-back semi-final defeats are tough to absorb. However, the perfect medicine would be a first league championship in 18 years.
Boss Stephen Baxter said: "Going for the league title takes a little bit of the pain away from this result.
"We have to refocus and redouble our efforts towards that and really push on.
"There will be no big inquest. You saw at the final whistle what it meant to Glentoran but yet you are talking about fine margins.
"We will bin this very quickly and prepare for two big games against Coleraine and Linfield. I need the players to battle a bit harder."
Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Leeman, Coates, McClean, Caddell, Clarke, Whyte, Heatley, Owens, Adamson. Substitutions: Hanley (Clarke, 76 mins), O'Carroll (Leeman, 85 mins).
Glentoran: Morris, Garrett, Kane, McCaffrey, Birney, Allen, Stewart, Henderson, McAlorum, Nelson, Holland. Substitutions: Gordon (Nelson, 75 mins), Scullion (Stewart, 78 mins), Addis (McCaffrey, 90 mins).
Man of the match: Marcus Kane (pictured)
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)