Cliftonville crashed out of the Setanta Sports Cup when Monday night’s 2-2 draw with Cork City proved nowhere near enough to overhaul the four-goal deficit suffered in last week’s first leg.
Behind to strikes from Daryl Horgan and Danny Furlong, the Reds levelled firstly through Liam Boyce and then Stephen Garrett but never looked likely to enjoy the goalfest required to earn a quarter-final slot.
Home boss Tommy Breslin made no fewer than eight changes to the side which lost at Turner’s Cross, with only Eamonn Seydak, James Knowles and Liam Boyce retaining their places in a side charged with the task of mounting an improbable comeback.
The postponement of Saturday’s scheduled encounter with Crusaders meant that the majority of Breslin’s players hadn’t kicked a ball in anger since the February 9 Irish Cup clash with Donegal Celtic and, raring to get back into the swing of things, the Solitude manager named an attacking line-up that has regularly produced the goods in front of goal this season.
Boyce and Garrett each saw half-chances come and go before Cork killed off what slim hopes the Reds had of completing an unlikely turnaround when Daryl Horgan cracked home a beauty of a strike on 16 minutes.
Now needing six goals to land a quarter-final berth, the Reds saw Barry Johnston and Marc Smyth denied by goal-line clearances within 30 seconds of one another before Diarmuid O’Carroll had a volley charged down by Danny Murphy.
They did level when Boyce bundled his way through for a 38th minute conversion but Cork restored their advantage when Danny Furlong had the most simple of finishes. And then Garrett got Cliftonville’s second of the game.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, R Scannell, Johnston, McMullan, Garrett, O’Carroll, Seydak, Smyth, Gormley, Knowles, Boyce. Subs: Brown, Donaghy, Caldwell (O’Carroll, 65 mins), Donnelly ( Johnston, 65 mins), Lynch, Cosgrove (Boyce, 75 mins), McVeigh.
CORK: McNulty, Turner, Murphy, Murray, G Morrissey, Duggan, Kavanagh, Furlong, Spillane, N Horgan, D Horgan. Subs: Behan (Kavanagh, 74 mins), Rundle (D Horgan, 81 mins), D Morrissey Furlong, 62 mins), Kenny, Burns, Buckley, Abbott.
REFEREE: Ross Dunlop (Carrick).