Cliftonville crowned Irish Premiership champions again

Cliftonville players celebrate after Chris Curran scored at Shamrock Park
Cliftonville players celebrate after Chris Curran scored at Shamrock Park


A 2-0 win over Portadown saw Cliftonville clinch a second successive Danske Bank Premiership title on Easter Tuesday.

Second half goals from Chris Curran and Stephen Garrett were enough to seal a massive victory at Shamrock Park.

The win - coupled with Linfield’s defeat to Glentoran at Windsor Park - saw Cliftonville extend their lead at the top to six points with just one game remaining.

It is the first time in the club’s history that the Reds have defended the Gibson Cup.

Curran eased the title nerves with a superb opening goal in the 53rd minute, the winger drilling home a low effort from the edge of the box

Substitute Garrett completed the job with a bullet header five minutes from time, sparking jubilant scenes of celebration in the away stands.

Tommy Breslin’s side just have Saturday’s North Belfast derby with Crusaders remaining - but any title pressure has been shrugged aside.

Cliftonville endured a frustrating opening half on a bumpy Shamrock Park surface that was not conducive to the champions’ fluid style.

Portadown started brightly with Chris Ramsey and Gary Twigg off target with long-range shots.

Sean Mackle also blazed an effort over the bar from Darren Murray’s long throw.

The early vibrancy of the travelling support soon mellowed into a nervous tension as the half progressed.

Twigg had the best chance of the opening half in the 41st minute, but the striker was unable to get enough power onto a header from six yards

The half ended with Peter McMahon mishitting his shot from inside the box after some good work from Murray on the left wing.

Breslin’s half-time team talk appeared to have the desired effect as Cliftonville came out with intent in the second period.

Marty Donnelly had a shot blocked in the 53rd minute, and less than 60 seconds later the Reds were in front.

And what a strike it was, with Curran picking up possession on the edge of the box before rifling a low drive into the bottom corner of David Miskelly’s net.

Cue some scenes of celebration in the away stands, with the visitors’ delight doubled minutes later with news of Glentoran’s first goal at Windsor Park.

Liam Boyce almost doubled the lead in the 66th minute, but his back-post header went over the bar after Portadown failed to clear Donnelly’s free-kick.

Portadown almost drew level in the 70th minute, but Murray’s low shot was tipped around the post by Conor Devlin.

Chris Casement went even closer in the 77th minute, the defender rattling the visitors’ crossbar with a superb 25-yard free-kick.

Devlin remained rooted to the spot as Emmett Friars headed the rebound over the bar.

Cliftonville’s victory was complete five minutes from time when substitutes Martin Murray and Garrett combined to make it 2-0.

Murray found space on the right, and when he fizzed across a fierce cross there was Garrett to guide the ball home.

The title celebrations then started in earnest.

PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, O’Hara, Mouncey (McCafferty 68), Breen, Friars, McMahon (Barton 68), Ramsey, Mackle, Murray, Twigg.

Subs not used: Brennan, McStay, , Redman.

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, Scannell, Johnston, McMullan, Donnelly (Garrett 74)Seydak, Smyth, Gormley, Curran (O’Carroll 74), Boyce (Murray 81).

Subs not used:Winchester, Cosgrove.

Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon)