Crusaders defender Gareth McKeown admitted his team simply “didn’t turn up” for the IRN-BRU League Cup final.
The 30-year-old, who was a member of the team that lifted the trophy 12 months earlier, conceded his team were “overrun” by an impressive Cliftonville side.
“We are all gutted – we just didn’t turn up,” said McKeown.
“We were good for the first 10 or 15 minutes, but after that we were rubbish.
“Cliftonville are a good side. Once they took the lead, they dominated. They pass the ball well and they work their socks off. They totally outplayed us.
“We just couldn’t get the ball off them at times. From the word go, we knew we were up against it.
“There were too many players in out team that just didn’t weight in on the day.
“It was a big occasion and there is no doubt, it got to some of our guys.”
McKeown added the frustration played a huge role in Paul Heatley’s dismissal.
“He has has been terrific us this season,” added McKeown.
“But he’ll tell you himself, he lashed out at the player (George McMullan). He deserved to go. It was a harsh lesson, but he’ll learn from it.
“Once he was sent off, that was it – game, set and match. They just opened up and started passing the ball well, we just couldn’t get near it.
“It was always going to be difficult down to 10 men but we kept battling away. Unfortunately the extra man took its toll and Cliftonville got another two goals.
“They thoroughly deserved their win and we can’t have any complaints. It just wasn’t our day.
“We now have to go back to the drawing board and prepare for the rest of the season.
“We will have a lot to play for this season.”