IRISH CUP: Loughgall dream over as Cliftonville firepower blasts Reds into final

Rory Donnelly celebrates scoring for Cliftonville against Loughgall. Pic by Pacemaker.
Rory Donnelly celebrates scoring for Cliftonville against Loughgall. Pic by Pacemaker.
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A first-half double apiece from Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly served to destroy the Tennent’s Irish Cup dreams of lowly Loughgall as Cliftonville raced into the showpiece final off a ruthless attacking display.

The Villagers’ second Irish Cup semi-final appearance in club history kicked off with hopes of a third senior scalp this season by the Championship club.

However, Cliftonville ensured they would avoid the same fate as top-flight colleagues Ards and Glenavon by racing into the lead towards the 4-1 victory.

With the clock on 21 seconds, Cliftonville broke the deadlock - and hearts of the Loughgall supporters - as Chris Curran’s work on the right was capped by a clinical angled Gormley strike that nestled inside the upright.

Cliftonville’s control of the last-four clash increased on six minutes when Donnelly opened his account by forcing his way into space inside the box and steering the ball home.

Loughgall’s woes increased with a third goal conceded on 24 minutes as Gormley produced the afternoon’s semi-final highlight on the high-profile stage.

Gormley lifted the ball behind the Loughgall backline for Donnelly, who picked out his Cliftonville colleague in space with a reverse return pass and the former found the net from over 25 yards off a perfectly-measured audacious lob.

Loughgall regrouped and enjoyed a positive period which was rewarded with a consolation around the half-hour mark.

Connor Mullen cleared the crossbar with a back-post header off Jamie Rea’s superb sweeping cross but enjoyed a more decisive impact on 31 minutes.

Dale Montgomery released Mullen and the winger refused to give up the lost cause, eventually hooking the ball across for Gary Liggett to smash a shot against the crossbar, with Andrew Hoey on hand to force home the rebound.

However, Cliftonville regained a stranglehold on the semi-final with a fourth goal when a poor clearance from Gareth Buchanan left the Loughgall number one stranded as Gormley fed the ball goalwards and Donnelly blasted home despite desperate attempts to recover by the goalkeeper.

Hoey hit home his second goal of the tie after the interval but an offside flag cut short the Loughgall celebrations.

Buchanan stopped Gormley from walking off as the hat-trick hero when, on 73 minutes, the goalkeeper’s close-range save left the Cliftonville forward frustrated following Levi Ives’ delivery.

Loughgall’s problems increased on 81 minutes as Peter Campbell was hit by two bookings in quick succession for dissent.

CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, McGovern (Grimes, 78), Ives, Harney, Curran (Lavery, 75), Bagnall, Gormley, J.Donnelly, Cosgrove, McDonald, R.Donnelly (Winchester, 63).

Subs (not used): Mooney, Donnelly, Garrett, A.Donnelly.

LOUGHGALL: Buchanan, Montgomery, Rea, Copeland, Stewart, Dallas, Mullen (Ferris, 66), Ferguson, Liggett, Hoey (McConnell, 78), Campbell.

Subs (not used): Ballard, Ferris, Neill, McMaster, Stretton, Robinson.

Referee: Keith Kennedy.