Dundalk 2 Cliftonville 1 (Dundalk won 5-2 on aggregate): Cliftonville crashed out of the Setanta Sports Cup in Dundalk last night, with their exit marking the end of the Irish League’s interest in the competition.
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Reds took the lead through Kieran O’Connor, but goals from Jason Byrne and Johnny Breen secured a 2-1 win on the night for Dundalk, with a 5-2 aggregate victory taking them into the final.
The home side knew that a goal would leave Cliftonville needing three just to force extra time and they raced from the traps creating two clear chances in the opening 10 minutes.
Mark Quigley, the star of Dundalk's Setanta Cup campaign, should have scored his sixth goal of the competition, but he shot weakly at Jack Duffin from eight-yards after shrugging off the attentions of Peter Hutton.
Quigley then turned provider for Jason Byrne in the 10th minute, knocking the ball nicely into his team-mate's path. Unfortunately for Byrne his fierce drive swerved just wide of Duffin's post.
Cliftonville almost got back into the tie in the 19th minute. Conal Burns cut in from the right and cracked a low drive across the Dundalk goal which Peter Cherrie did well to tip behind.
Dundalk were let off the hook 11 minutes later. Eamonn Seydak's neat flick sent Stephen Garrett away on the left. His cross found Burns, but he could only head wide with the goal at his mercy.
The tie came to life just shy of the hour mark when Cliftonville took the lead. Liam Fleming played a high ball towards the near post and O'Connor managed to guide a header past Cherrie and haul the Reds back into the semi-final.
Buoyed by the goal, Cliftonville went for a second and Conal Burns was denied by Cherrie after forcing his way past Murphy.
Dundalk restored their two goal aggregate lead in the 67th minute. Ross Gaynor won the ball from Burns before a great class delivery which Byrne headed home via the crossbar.
The result was put beyond doubt in time added on when Breen coolly tucked the ball home.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Madden, Hawkins, Hector, N Murphy; Kearns (Breen 76), Ward, McDonnell, Gaynor; Quigley, Byrne.
CLIFTONVILLE: Duffin; Fleming, Hutton (Kane 84), McVeigh, Seydak (Bannon 80), Burns, McMullan, Lynch (Donnelly 70), Garrett, Scannell, O'Connor.
Referee: Alan Black (Antrim).