IRISH CUP SEMI-FINAL: Glenavon’s Kevin Braniff hits four to see off Crusaders

Glenavon's Kevin Braniff scores his third goal against Crusaders

Glenavon's Kevin Braniff scores his third goal against Crusaders

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Kevin Braniff scored an incredible FOUR goals as Glenavon booked their place in the final of the Tennent’s Irish Cup.

Braniff scored twice in either half as the Lurgan Blues claimed a thrilling 4-3 victory over Crusaders on Friday night at Windsor Park.

It was a mesmerising performance from Glenavon’s talisman who helped his side come from behind three times before delivering the fatal blow in the 71st minute.

Matthew Snoddy’s double and Paul Heatley’s 23rd goal of the season kept Crusaders ahead during the game.

But each and every time Braniff came up with a reply.

Glenavon will now meet the winners of today’s second semi-final between Linfield and Lurgan Celtic.

A blistering first half witnessed four goals as the sides went in level at the break.

The Crues broke the deadlock in the 24th minute when Snoddy finished off a superb team move with a close-range finish.

Three minutes later it was all square, with Braniff curling a delightful effort past Sean O’Neill from 25 yards.

The rousing response was dashed less than a minute later when Crusaders forged ahead again, with Snoddy claiming his second with a low drive from the edge of the box.

Braniff then matched Snoddy with his second of the night, latching onto Ciaran Martyn’s through ball before coolly slotting past O’Neill.

Crusaders regained the lead less than two minutes after the restart – substitute Declan Caddell crossing for Heatley to finish off.

Braniff’s hat-trick arrived in the 53rd minute, the Glenavon talisman heading home Andy McGrory’s deep cross.

Glenavon took the lead for the first time on the night in the 71st minute with Braniff bagging his fourth – this time caressing Declan O’Brien’s cross into the bottom corner of the net.

Crusaders tried to respond, with substitutes Diarmuid O’Carroll and Ross Holden both going close.

But it wasn’t long before Glenavon were celebrating their second final in three years, and on course to repeat their success of 2014.

CRUSADERS: O’Neill, Magowan (Holden 81), Coates, Robinson, McClean, Forsythe, Snoddy (Caddell 46), Heatley, Mitchell, Owens (O’Carroll 75), Whyte.

Subs not used: McKibbin, Clarke.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Kelly (Elebert 87), Dillon, Kilmartin, Marshall, Cooper (Patton 80), Hall, McGrory, O’Brien, Braniff, Martyn (Sykes 68).

Subs not used: Hamilton, McGrath.

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)