IRISH CUP FINAL: Coleraine capture trophy at expense of Cliftonville

One year on from final heartbreak at the same showpiece and one week on from losing the league, Coleraine can add the blue and white ribbons to the Tennent's Irish Cup silverware for the first time since 2003 thanks to a 3-1 success over Cliftonville.

Saturday, 5th May 2018, 5:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 5:36 pm
Coleraine celebrate during a 3-1 win over Cliftonville in the Tennent's Irish Cup final.

Goals by Darren McCauley, Aaron Burns and Eoin Bradley cemented success for Oran Kearney's side, with a Rory Donnelly finish the sole consolation for a Cliftonville team that held the upper hand in terms of possession.

The Cliftonville players each stood motionless with heads down in protest at the decision to open the showpiece with the National Anthem. However, it was a case of high energy after the first whistle as the Reds dominated the initial stages.

That level of possession failed to result in clear sights of goal and the game's first talking point arrived for Coleraine.

A defensive mix-up between Jamie Harney and goalkeeper Brian Neeson led to a loose ball wide on the left that Bradley steered goalwards with a snapshot that just cleared the crossbar.

Donnelly's header under pressure off a free-kick dropped wide as Cliftonville probed and pressed in search of an end product.

Stephen Dooley's final was cut short by injury around the half-hour mark, with the introduction of Ian Parkhill injecting some welcome spark into the final third of Coleraine's attack.

Parkhill clipped over a teasing cross at the second time of asking which proved just beyond the reach of McCauley.

Another Parkhill delivery was then directed down but wide by Jamie McGonigle.

Bradley burst forward in the second half and picked out McCauley on the edge of the area but his curling effort lacked the power to trouble Neeson.

Everything changed moments later when, on 50 minutes, McCauley made his mark in spectacular style.

Aaron Traynor's cut-back pass found McCauley on the edge of the area and his first-time drive had the power and movement to nestle in the net and leave Neeson rooted to the spot.

Cliftonville left it level within five minutes of the setback thanks to Tomas Cosgrove's surging run forward capped by a low cross into the heart of the penalty area - with Donnelly reacting to race in and slot home from a few yards as Coleraine proved static.

Captain Chris Curran gestured to the Reds' supporters to amp up the noise for the closing stages as Cliftonville manager Barry Gray turned to Stephen Garrett as the skipper's replacement.

However, Coleraine managed to regain control on 77 minutes as Chris Johns' miscued kick managed to travel low upfield without any Cliftonville interception, with Bradley slipping the ball forward in behind the backline and substitute Burns raced on to slot home.

The final line on Coleraine's season arrived with number three in injury-time when Bradley broke clear, showed strength to protect possession then subtlety with a deft chip over Neeson.

The striker wheeled away in delight before the ball crossed the line in the knowledge Coleraine had won the cup.

CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, Ives (Grimes, 85), Breen (Harkin, 85), Harney, Curran (Garrett, 72), Bagnall, Gormley, J.Donnelly, Cosgrove, McDonald, R.Donnelly.

Subs (not used): McGovern, Winchester, Dunne, Lavery.

COLERAINE: Johns, Mullan, Harkin, McCauley (Smith, 86), Bradley, McConaghie, Lyons, O'Donnell, Traynor, McGonigle (Burns, 61), Dooley (Parkhill, 31).

Subs (not used): Douglas, Ogilby, Kirk, Doherty.