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Glenavon's star is on the rise as Linfield falter in Irish Cup

Glenavon 2 - Linfield 0

By Graham Luney

From Tillysburn's muddy surface to Windsor Park's field of dreams, Glenavon have done it again. And they've done it in real style. There's no talk of refereeing blunders or fine margins.

This was a comfortable success for Gary Hamilton's men who were driven on by the desire to honour the memory of former Derry City and Lurgan Blues favourite Mark Farren.

Farren, whose widow Terri-Louise led out the team, fought an aggressive brain tumour with considerable courage before passing away in February.

This was a special tribute to a very special man and it injected even more emotion into an occasion which creates heroes and legends. Ciaran Martyn, when asked about his old friend Farren after the game, was so emotional he couldn't find the words.

When he regained his composure he lifted the trophy along with club captain Kris Lindsay.

After raising the Irish Cup twice in three years, Glenavon might fancy a shot at the Premiership title next season and if Hamilton can keep bolstering his panel perhaps the Lurgan men, rather than Linfield, will threaten to knock Crusaders off their perch. But that's a mission that can wait.

Glenavon thoroughly deserved this 2-0 victory sealed by goals either side of half-time from Kevin Braniff and Andy Hall.

Braniff, who also scored four goals in the semi-final win over Crusaders, was named man of the match but you could have given that award to anyone in an orange jersey. Keeper Jonny Tuffey, once shown the exit door at Windsor Park by Linfield, was sublime, pulling off crucial saves from Stephen Lowry and Aaron Burns. Despite making a lively start the Blues couldn't find a way past the orange wall, with Simon Kelly, Conor Dillon, Rhys Marshall and Mark Patton halting the attacks.

Marshall has two Irish Cup winner's medals and he's only 21-years-old. As commentator Jackie Fullerton, who hung up his microphone after the game would say, 'Can You Believe It?'

Referee Raymond Hetherington, who had an excellent game, disallowed an Eoin Bradley goal when Martyn slid in on keeper Gareth Deane who was making his seventh appearance of the season.

Joel Cooper's curling drive which narrowly sailed past the upright was a warning to the Blues but they were rocked just before the interval when Braniff produced a sweet finish from Bradley's exquisite cross from the outside of his left boot.

The expectation was that Linfield would come out all guns blazing after the restart but it was the 2014 winners who struck again, Hall's strike finding a way past Matthew Clarke and into the net.

Bradley fired another shot wide and Braniff should have made it 3-0 but stabbed his effort past the post. Linfield lacked inspiration and creativity.

They didn't do themselves justice while Glenavon were a hard working and intelligent unit, hungry to land the prize.

That's now two finals Healy has lost, following the CoAntrim Shield defeat to Ballymena United, and he must find a way to unlock the trophy cabinet.

The thing about losing an Irish Cup final is that you carry around those regrets forever.

The Linfield players will look at themselves in the mirror and acknowledge they didn't deliver in front of the bumper crowd of 11,500.

Glenavon were superior across the park with the ugly side of the game carried out beautifully by Andy Kilmartin and Ciaran Martyn.

Bradley and Braniff outshone Andy Waterworth and Paul Smyth.

Cooper looked a tricky customer on the wing and the back five were simply immense. Too many of the Linfield team had an off day.

But there have been too many off days at Linfield Football Club since David Jeffrey ended his trophy laden spell at the club. There's rebuilding work at Windsor Park on and off the pitch to be done.

Elsewhere in local football's top flight, clubs like Glenavon aren't standing still.

With more European money banked, they will remain a formidable force next season.

They were certainly out of Linfield's reach on Saturday.

Linfield: Deane, Haughey, Callacher (Quinn, 76 mins), Waterworth, Lowry, Burns, Ward, Clarke (Millar, 56 mins), Mulgrew, Gaynor, Smyth.

Unused subs: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Fallon.

Glenavon: Tuffey, Kelly, Dillon, Kilmartin, Marshall, Cooper (Kearns, 90 mins), Bradley (Hamilton, 86 mins), Hall, Patton, Braniff, Martyn (Sykes, 68 mins).

Unused subs: Lindsay, McGrory

Match Rating: 7/10

Man of match: Kevin Braniff

Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon)

Belfast Telegraph


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