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Daire O'Connor at the double as rapid Cliftonville start kills Portstewart's chances of an Irish Cup upset

Cliftonville 5-1 Portstewart


Daire O'Connor has impressed for Cliftonville.

Daire O'Connor has impressed for Cliftonville.

©INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Daire O'Connor has impressed for Cliftonville.

Ruthless Cliftonville showed Portstewart to mercy to make comfortable progress to the second round of the Irish Cup with a 5-1 win at Solitude.

Though Richard Vauls' scrambled effort just past the hour had threatened to make a game of things after Garry Breen and Daire O'Connor had shot the hosts into an early lead, O'Connor's second of the night restored the two-goal deficit ahead of Daniel Kearns and Ryan Curran adding further gloss.

Just as they had done in their five-goal show against Carrick on Saturday, Cliftonville set about their task from the first whistle and Portstewart would surely have been fearing the worst after shipping two goals in the first seven-and-a-half minutes.

Without a competitive game to their name since September, the circumstances surrounding the opener laid that ring-rustiness bare as the visiting backline hesitated in dealing with a Rory Hale delivery and, with goalkeeper Andrew Findlay likewise uncertain, Breen needed no second invitation to casually nod home his second goal in two matches.

It was 2-0 soon later when O'Connor fashioned some room for himself before shooting in off the base of the post but, their nightmare start well and truly realised, there was no sign of Portstewart wilting in the face of an early onslaught.

Johnny Law's side were right back in it on 63 minutes when Vauls was adjudged to have got the telling touch in a goalmouth scramble but the visitors' hopes of staging a shock comeback were snuffed out when O'Connor followed up to make it 3-1 after Findlay had saved from McCrudden.

Within a minute, Kearns had added his name to the scoresheet with a low finish into the bottom corner ahead of Curran wrapping things up after being presented with the chance by McCrudden.

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Having made Irish Cup history by last night becoming the only club to participate in all 141 seasons of the competition's existence, Cliftonville - whose last trophy triumph in the blue riband tournament came 42 years ago today - will now have one eye on Saturday's second round draw as they continue their plot to end that long wait.

CLIFTONVILLE: McCarey, Breen, O'Connor (Hyland 73), R Curran, McCrudden, Foster, Donnelly, Hale (O'Brien 80), Lowe (Casey 77), Kearns, Coffey.

Unused subs: Dunne, C Curran, Bagnall, McGuinness.

PORTSTEWART: Findlay, Forgrave (Steele 77), Vauls, Watt, Douglas (McDonald 75), Law (Bradley 33), Doherty, Edgar, Peden, Gillan, Barr.

Unused subs: Vance, Campbell, Moorcroft, Crawford.

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus)

Man of the match: Rory Hale (Cliftonville)

Match rating: 7/10

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