What a game. Glentoran are through to place Ballymena in the Irish Cup final after the most dramatic of victories over Cliftonville, 7-6 on penalties.
Here are five things we can take away:
Penalties is no way to decide a game like this. Those 120 minutes were top, top quality from start to finish. OK so the first goal was a bit of a comedy of errors but you get that at any level. From McMenamin and Nasseri on the wings to the likes of Garry Breen and Patrick McClean in defence, this was a football match from the top drawer. Anybody who criticises the Irish League should be made to watch it from start to finish. It seemed incredibly harsh that any side should have to lose and you couldn't help but feel for Cliftonville once Elliott Morris made the telling penalty save. But what a moment for the 39-year-old goalkeeper in his 19th season at Glentoran. He's set for his sixth Irish Cup final.
If we needed any further confirmation that Navid Nasseri is absolute quality, he provided it in spades. From the very first minute, when he rasped a shot straight at Richard Brush, he looked like the Glens’ danger man and continued in the same vein. He’ll have been disappointed he didn’t score midway through the first half as his direct run and cut-back to Robbie McDaid set up a big chance, although his own shot was blocked by a defender. He also crossed for McDaid to head over and played a near reverse pass to tee up a Ciaran O’Connor shot in the second half. No wonder Linfield want him….
McMenamin has been round the houses of Irish League football, let go by both Linfield and Glentoran before resurrecting his career at Warrenpoint Town. There was even a spell as a makeshift left-back at Milltown before he earned a move back to Belfast. He has also been shifted about the pitch at Solitude but this season has finally made an attacking position his own, scoring double figures of league goals for the first time and underlining his position as a very top tier Irish League forward. Up against Glentoran’s makeshift full-back Elvio van Overbeek, he tortured his marker and it was his run and cross that led to the opening goal.
The 23-year-old striker has improved gradually every year since arriving at the Oval in 2017. McDaid scored 10 league goals in his first season at the Glens, 13 in the next and 15 this season. His first half strike took his tally to 20 in all competitions this term and 46 in 106 games for the club. It was the nature of it though, an instinctive finish bobbling in off the post, that showed his nose for a goal. Yes, he could have had more with a few decent chances missed but then you could say the same about Mo Salah after every game and he does alright…
The two team captains went head to head with Cliftonville’s right winger Chris Curran facing Glentoran left-back Marcus Kane. Both impressed when they had the ball, with Curran in the thick of Cliftonville’s attacks. Never a man to hog the limelight, he did his job but didn’t try to take on too much, trusting his team-mates with the sensible pass whenever it was on. Kane, too, showed his class with some long-range passes from the very top drawer. He could have had an assist but before his dangerous cross could be smashed home, play was called back with referee Ian McNabb saying the ball had gone out of play.