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Cliftonville 4 Crusaders 0

By Graham Luney

Tommy Breslin’s smile was as wide as the Waterworks in the heart of north Belfast.

Or you could also say, as spread out as the Crusaders defence while trying to keep pace with Liam Boyce, Joe Gormley and Ryan Catney.

When Crues boss Stephen Baxter and his management team sit down and watch this video nasty the post-mortem will reveal some depressing results.

But it’s pretty viewing from Cliftonville’s perspective — it doesn’t get much better than winning a north Belfast derby in a major final in front of the Sky Sports audience.

Crusaders, for the second successive final at Windsor Park, failed to turn up.

Last May Linfield thumped them 4-1 in the Irish Cup final. On this occasion, they couldn’t manage one goal.

Where are the positives they can take from this? This shouldn’t take long...

With the exception of keeper Yohann Lacroix who made a few decent blocks, David Magowan who made a few timely interceptions and David Rainey who made a lively contribution from the bench, the other players in red and black failed to rise to the occasion.

And Paul Heatley will reflect on his first senior final with embarrassment — his shocking challenge on George McMullan left the Shore Road ship leaking more water in the rain.

The floodgates soon opened. Bizarrely the Crues started like a house on fire but chances were squandered.

Reds boss Breslin knew the first goal would be priceless and afterwards he used the word that, more than any other, sums up Cliftonville’s form this season — “ruthless”.

Goals from Diarmuid O'Carroll and Joe Gormley had the Crues on a slippery slope at the break.

Gormley’s second and the final blow from Catney ensured the north Belfast bragging rights belonged on the Cliftonville Road.

Crusaders couldn’t complain about anything other than their own shortcomings.

Last season they showed character to bounce back from the Irish Cup defeat to lift the Setanta Cup and they must pick themselves off the floor again.

But this was as stunning a knockout blow from Breslin’s men for whom Barry Johnston, Catney and Gormley were immense.

Striker Rainey offered no excuses. “It was a great final for the neutral with plenty of goals.

“We had plenty of efforts ourselves but unfortunately lady luck wasn’t on our side. Conor (Devlin) made a few good saves and a few chances went wide.

“There’s no doubt that Cliftonville deserved to run out winners. They took their chances when they came and when we went a man down they took full advantage while we were chasing shadows.

“The pressure is always on you when you go a goal down and they were 2-0 up at half-time.

“The pitch was a bit heavy but it was the same for both sides. Maybe the heavy legs were on our side after Tuesday’s game against Linfield.

“They have good strikers but the midfielders Barry Johnston and Ryan Catney made excellent runs. They are dangerous in midfield as well as up front.

“Big Diarmuid (O’Carroll) scored a great goal, perhaps it got a slight deflection but he took it well, struck it low and hard.

“We will lick our wounds and accept that the game is gone and we can’t do anything about it. You’ve got to move on.”

Rainey was a 60th minute substitution for midfielder Chris Morrow.

“No-one likes to miss a cup final but you don’t want to lose one either,” he added.

On his future, as the transfer window prepares to close on Thursday, Rainey added: “No-one has contacted the club or me and I’m not one for walking away either.”

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph