How Glenavon could still earn an automatic European place ahead of Irish Cup final
Glenavon 4 Cliftonville 0
Stephen Murray admits Glenavon are gutted to (almost definitely) miss out on automatic European qualification - but are still determined to dust down their passports.
The Lurgan Blues completed their Premiership programme with an impressive home win against Cliftonville, which ensured they finished the campaign with a club record 70 points.
A first half double from Murray, complemented by strikes from Andy Hall - who scored direct from a corner kick - and a last-minute effort from 16-year-old Ross Hunter helped Glenavon secure a third-place finish for the second successive season.
And that means European entry does remain a slight possibility. If Ballinamallard manage to beat Crusaders in the Irish Cup final and are denied a European license, the Europa League spot designated for the cup winners would go to third place in the Premiership: Glenavon.
However, the likelihood is the Lurgan Blues will have to negotiate next month's play-offs before they can start dreaming about their travels.
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"It is a bit frustrating," insists Murray. "Last season we finished in third place and gained automatic entry to Europe because Coleraine (the league's runners-up) won the Irish Cup.
"This time we must do it the hard way. As everyone knows, it's (the play-offs) a bit of a lottery, but we are going into the semi-final in good form. On our day we are a match for any side."
Reds chief Paddy McLaughlin admitted his hand was forced in terms of team selection because a number of his players were walking a suspension tightrope.
"We had three boys one booking away from missing the play-offs and we had a couple carrying injuries, so, I wasn't prepared to take any chances at all," he said. "I gave a lot of the kids a chance. It's only fair that we not only get ready for next week, but for next season."
GLENAVON: J Taylor, Doyle (Barr, 59 mins), Hall, Harmon, Larmour, Norton, Murray, Garrett (Hunter, 68 mins), Jenkins (O Taylor, 74 mins), Wearen, Sharkey. Unused subs: Daniels, Jameson, Bassett, Hamilton.
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, Breen, Harney (Whiteway, 81 mins), C Curran, R Curran, Bagnall, Catney, McConnell (Rocks, 62 mins), Maguire, McMenamin, A Donnelly. Unused subs: Neeson, McGovern, R Donnelly, Lavery, Gorman.
Referee: Tony Clarke (Newtownabbey)
Man of the match: Andy Hall
Match rating: 7/10