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Irish Cup: Bitter taste will linger for Portadown as Glentoran claim the honours

Glentoran 1-0 Portadown

By Graham Luney

What a shame. For the second year running an Irish Cup final has been tainted by controversial decisions by officials. Already angry at having to play the decider at Glentoran's home, Portadown returned to mid-Ulster with a burning sense of injustice.

Glentoran won't give a jot about that and rightly so. If a big decision goes your way you're not going to complain about it - especially when there's around £170,000 riding on the outcome.

After last year's final, Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson launched a verbal volley at referee Raymond Crangle, with Gary Thompson's dismissal in particular leaving him fuming.

Fast forward a year and Crangle was positioned behind Elliott Morris' goal in the 54th minute when Michael Gault chased a poor back pass from Willie Garrett and went down under the defender's challenge.

Neither Crangle nor referee Ross Dunlop spotted a foul so there was no free-kick or red card for Garrett.

Thirty-one seconds later, David Scullion scored the game's only goal, rubbing salt into Portadown's gaping wound.

And just to make even more steam come out of the ears of Ports boss Ronnie McFall, a penalty wasn't awarded when Calum Birney handled Gary Twigg's second-half header. Glentoran will argue that it's up to the officials to do their jobs and there will be times when they will feel robbed.

That's true but looking on as a neutral observer it was easy to feel the pain of McFall and his men who went looking for answers from Dunlop at the final whistle.

Garrett knew he had played a poor back pass, looked across and saw Gault charging forward and did make contact with the midfielder.

When Dunlop, who was taking charge of his first Irish Cup final, studies the action again he should admit he got it wrong.

Portadown didn't even get a free-kick when Morris picked up the back pass!

Dunlop deserves praise for speaking to the media after the game but he did have a clear view of the incident and admitted there was "minimal contact".

Only Gault knows if he could have stayed on his feet after Garrett's challenge but even if he did go to ground easily, there was contact and the centre-back was a lucky boy.

Reports of Crangle's headset not working properly are irrelevant as the Fifa official could easily have attracted Dunlop's attention.

Birney's handball was also ignored when it could well have resulted in a penalty and not surprisingly the hairdryer was in full blast mode when McFall conducted his post-match press conference.

By the end of it you were left reflecting on what a shame it was that the most experienced manager in European football retains such a dim view of the standard of our officials.

"Every week in the Irish League there are controversial decisions which the referees don't get right," raged McFall.

"That (Garrett's challenge) was the big moment in the match and the referees didn't get it right. That's the bottom line."

While Portadown's frustration is understandable they will be disappointed they didn't sparkle more in the final third and their defence was caught napping for the goal. In contrast, Garrett and Birney produced sensational performances in the heart of the Glens defence, ably assisted by the magnificent Marcus Kane while Barry Holland is a perfect example of the class and composure experienced players bring to a side.

As late substitute Kym Nelson said after the contest, "it's a man's game" and it's now time to stop referring to this Glentoran team as young. The boys are men now and Irish Cup winners.

It wasn't a pretty game in wet and slippery conditions but Scullion, who had clipped the Ports crossbar with a long-range effort in the opening half, produced the game's magical moment just seconds after Gault's tumble.

The winger beautifully controlled Jordan Stewart's cross and then expertly drove the ball past David Miskelly.

For all their attacking flair the Ports didn't threaten enough and when they did Morris superbly tipped over Garry Breen's header.

But the big talking points were Garrett's clash with Gault and the Birney handball that wasn't spotted.

Not surprisingly, there were no protests from the Glentoran camp.

Morris said: "I thought he (Gault) caught Willie after the back pass was scuffed a bit."

Boss Eddie Patterson, who was rightly proud of his young warriors, said: "I thought Michael Gault ran across Willie Garrett who doesn't break stride.

"He doesn't make another movement to obstruct Michael. My view of it was Willie kept going and Gaulty clipped him."

Off the pitch there were ugly scenes when some Portadown fans attempted to force their way through a gate but stewards acted swiftly.

The record books will record Glentoran as winners.

Their champagne will taste sweet but Portadown won't be buying the officials any.

Glentoran: Morris 7, Garrett 8, Kane 8, Birney 8, McAlorum 8, Holland 8, Henderson 6, Gordon 7, Stewart 7, Allen 7, Scullion 8. Subs: McCaffrey (for Scullion 89) 6, Addis (for Henderson 89) 6, Nelson (for Stewart 90) 6. Subs not used: McKee, Hogg

Portadown: Miskelly 6, Casement 6, Redman 6, O'Hara 6, Breen 7, McMahon 6, Mackle 7, McAllister 6, Gault 7, Twigg 6, Garrett 8. Subs: Murray (for McAllister 72) 6. Subs not used: Brennan, Ramsey, Lyttle, Conaty.

Man of the match: David Scullion (right)

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Ross Dunlop 5

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