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Joe Gormley and Paul O’Neill are Cliftonville’s extra special strikers

Substitutes shine in front of record crowd to turn dramatic final on its head and deliver League Cup success for Cliftonville

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Cliftonville’s Chris Curran celebrates with the League Cup.

Cliftonville’s Chris Curran celebrates with the League Cup.

Joe the goal: Cliftonville’s Joe Gormley laps up the applause of the Reds’ fans at Windsor Park yesterday. Credit: Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker

Joe the goal: Cliftonville’s Joe Gormley laps up the applause of the Reds’ fans at Windsor Park yesterday. Credit: Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker

Cliftonville’s Paul O’Neill runs away in delight after scoring against Coleraine at Windsor Park. Credit: Pacemaker

Cliftonville’s Paul O’Neill runs away in delight after scoring against Coleraine at Windsor Park. Credit: Pacemaker

Coleraine’s James McLaughlin is sent off by referee Andrew Davey at Windsor Park. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Coleraine’s James McLaughlin is sent off by referee Andrew Davey at Windsor Park. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

An ecstatic Jonny Addis holds the trophy aloft

An ecstatic Jonny Addis holds the trophy aloft

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Cliftonville’s Chris Curran celebrates with the League Cup.

Deadly Joe Gormley and Paul O’Neill bagged the goals to help Cliftonville write themselves into the record books at a bouncing Windsor Park.

Both players were only introduced in the second-half of a dramatic BetMcLean League Cup final – the first in Northern Ireland to be staged on Sunday – against Coleraine when the Reds hopes of a trophy treble appeared to be heading for the buffers.

If the first-half was mundane and pedestrian, the second was a belter. The Bannsiders produced a devastating five-minute spell after the restart to take command with goals from Matthew Shevlin – his seventh of the tournament – and Stephen Lowry.

Just when they looked down and out the Reds came storming back with substitute Gormley doing what he does best before O’Neill, who had replaced Ronan Doherty on 70 minutes, fired in the equaliser in injury time.

And, the drama continued into extra-time when Coleraine substitute James McLaughlin was red carded by referee Andrew Davey for hitting Chris Curran with an uppercut that a boxer would have been proud of.

Coleraine assistant manager William Murphy was also sent from the dug-out for speaking out of turn.

Former Glentoran man O’Neill then struck again in the first period of extra-time to send the Red Army into raptures before ‘Joe the Goal’ guaranteed the Reds their sixth League Cup success.

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Although another substitute, Curtis Allen, pulled one back, it was too little too late for the Bannsiders.

It really was a historic occasion in every sense, played in front of 11,103 fans which was a record for the competition. Both teams emerged from the sanctuary of the dressing to a cauldron of noise and colour with plumes of flames shooting into the Sunday afternoon sky.

In an electric atmosphere, they went it at right from the off and the Reds required merely four minutes to sniff out their first attempt at goal. Jamie McDonagh was chopped down by Aaron Traynor wide on the right and when Levi Ives whipped in the free kick, Ryan Curran got up above everyone else only to direct his header wide.

McDonagh, who has been a revelation for Cliftonville since his move from Glentoran last summer, then showed a glimpse of what has made his such a favourite when he took down a racking pass from Ives and flicked the ball over Traynor before trying an audacious shot with the outside of his right foot, only to see his effort fizz wide.

Unsurprisingly, the early sting evaporated with both teams content to become embroiled in a midfield battle.

Cliftonville did threaten again 10 minutes before the interval when Ives’ long punt forward was cleverly flicked into the path of Hale by Curran, but his volley nestled safely in the gloves of Gareth Deane.

The game sparked to life on 58 minutes with a classic finish from Shevlin. The energetic Kane picked the pocket of Ives and following a surging, lung-busting 40-yard dash, he threaded a pass into the path of the striker, who brilliantly slipped the ball under the diving Luke McNicholas.

For the first time in the game, the Reds were on the ropes. Urged on by their fans Coleraine attacked with Josh Carson on the left, but his cut-back was shovelled to safety by Luke Turner.

The Bannsiders struck again in devastating fashion on 63 minutes. Jamie Glackin’s corner was missed by Rodney Brown, but the ball fell kindly for Lowry, who took a touch before rocketing a shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar.

Cliftonville were back in it 11 minutes later. Ryan Curran managed to drill over a left wing cross and Gormley, got up to flick the ball beyond the outstretched gloves of Deane . Game on!

Suddenly, all the noise was coming from the Cliftonville half of the ground. With the clock ticking down, Gormley was almost through again when he gobbled up a pass from Kris Lowe, but was eventually muscled out by a combination of Kane and Stevie O’Donnell.

Gormley had another great chance on 84 minutes when he reacted quickly to meet a Luke Turner cross, but with Deane badly off his line, he could only direct his header over the crossbar.

And, as the Reds piled forward, Gormley had yet another chance in the 90th minute only to see his shot blocked by the body of Traynor.

Cliftonville did get back on terms 60 seconds later – and the place erupted. McDonagh fired in a cross from the right that was flicked across the goal by Addis and then Turner for Gormley, whose header came off the crossbar and O’Neill was on hand to poke home.

The Bannsiders were down to 10 men two minutes into extra time after that moment of madness from McLaughlin, who downed Curran. He took the walk of shame along with his assistant boss Murphy.

It was the Reds who were now asking all the questions and it took a smart save from Deane to prevent O’Neill nicking his second goal of the day, after great work by Ryan Curran.

But he had better luck on 104 minutes. This time Chris Curran did well to cut the ball back from the by-line and O’Neill smashed it home.

Cliftonville sealed the deal on the 107th minute. Gormley had the simplest of tap-ins to finish off a cross from Ryan Curran. The party immediately got under way in North Stand.

The gutsy Bannsiders reduced the deficit in the last minute of extra-time when Allen converted a cross from Kane, but it was mere consolation.


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