Linfield are back - the crowd at Windsor Park were left in no doubt of that as their side powered to a convincing Irish Cup success.
Linfield are back - the crowd at Windsor Park were left in no doubt as the Blues powered to a convincing Irish Cup success.
Andy Waterworth was again a key cog, delivering a second hat-trick in two weeks to set the Irish Cup alongside the Gibson Cup via a 3-0 win over Coleraine.
Linfield were in a class of their own from the first whistle. Not only did hat-trick scorer Waterworth, Burns and Smyth take it in turns to test the relentlessly pressured back line during the first half, Mark Stafford and his well-marshalled back line completed the win with an unbreakable second half resolve.
Few could have queried the credentials when their opener arrived on 29 - the only question was how it had taken so long.
Waterworth spread the ball wide to Paul Smyth and arrived in perfect time to pounce at the near post, a run made in certainty that the 19 year-old would deliver the telling cross.
The second, just four minutes later, came thanks to magnificent control, a jink past his marker and a strong effort from Aaron Burns, Waterworth converting.
All the signs of such a volley of blows were there. Mark Haughey had tested Chris Johns with a header in just the fourth minute and his defensive team-mate Mark Stafford missed a gilt-edged opportunity on 22 minutes when a corner fell at his fell inside the six yard box.
His blushes need never have been too rosy. Such was his side’s dominance that it never looked like costing them anything.
There’s little doubting Coleraine improved and offered more of a threat once Jamie McGonigle shifted into his natural attacking berth on 57 minutes. He was the one causing Roy Carroll the concern, a slight as that was, when he flicked a header over the bar and later looked to burst through, only to be denied by the impeccable Stafford.
And then the finisher, another simple conversion for man of the match Waterworth, laid on a plate again by the tireless Smyth.
From back to front, this was a display of dominance from the South Belfast side. Irish Cup champions, Danske Bank Premiership champions, double winners; the David Healy era has begun.
COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Mullan, McConaghie, Ogilby, McCauley, Harkin, Lyons, McGonigle (Allan 82), McLaughlin (Parkhill 57), Bradley. Unused Subs: Douglas, McCafferty, Doherty
LINFIELD: Carroll, Haughey, Stafford, Callacher, Clarke, Smyth (Casement 89), Mulgrew, Lowry, Quinn, Burns (Stewart 82), Waterworth. Unused Subs: Millar, Ward, Deane
Referee: Keith Kennedy