Conor McMenamin and Jay Donnelly goals fire Glentoran into Europa play-off final

Deadly duo Conor McMenamin and Jay Donnelly grabbed the crucial goals that punched Glentoran’s ticket to the Europa Conference League play-off final.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 10:05 pm

The East Belfast side swatted away the challenge of gutsy Glenavon in a semi-final showdown at the BetMcLean Oval - and are now only 90 minutes away from having their passports stamped.

They will face Larne in a winner-takes-all showdown on Friday night – a game that will be worth something in the region of £250,000 to the triumphant team.

It would also help repair some of the damage of what has been a hugely disappointing season for Mick McDermott’s team.

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Conor McMenamin celebrates finding the net for Glentoran against Glenavon in the Europa Conference League play-off semi-final at the Oval. Pic by Pacemaker.

Not only did they finish 12 points behind Linfield – the champions – but they were also tossed out of the Irish Cup after fielding an ineligible player, Joe Crowe, in the quarter-final win over Newry City.

But they are now closing in on a financial jackpot, should they get the better of give their faithful fanbase something to cheer.

Young Glenavon goalkeeper Josh Clarke was called into action after only six minutes, brilliantly beating away a fiercely-hit shot from Seanan Clucas, who was picked out by a clever cutback from McMenamin.

But Glenavon didn’t arrive to be intimidated and they almost caught the Glens cold two minutes later when Matthew Fitzpatrick latched on to a quickly-taken throw-in from Conor McCloskey, only to shoot tamely at Aaron McCarey.

Gary Hamilton’s visitors were almost presented with a gift chance on 17 minutes when Darren Cole’s attempted backpass to McCarey feel short, letting in Fitzpatrick - but the big Monaghan shot-stopper got down to whip the ball off the striker’s toe.

Both teams had penalty claims turned down by referee Lee Tavinder.

Glentoran fans were in a rage as the Dungannon official waved play on when McMenamin’s shot cannoned back off Calum Birney.

Then, seconds later, Danny Wallace went down under a challenge from Rhys Marshall but, again, the referee wasn’t interested.

But it was Hamilton’s boys who began to ask the questions as the half progressed.

Peter Campbell tried his luck with a stinging low drive from distance that had McCarey at full stretch before Fitzpatrick hoofed one just inches over the top.

Glentoran forged ahead on 48 minutes.

Jay Donnelly’s delicious pass sent McMenamin free and, as Clarke quickly came off his line, the striker delicately lofted the ball into the empty net – an exquisite finish.

It really should have been two just before the hour.

McMenamin whipped in an inviting corner from the right which was met by Donnelly, but his header fizzed inches wide.

The Glens went looking for a killer second, skipper Marcus Kane was just out of luck with a stinging low drive that flashed wide before Paddy McClean tried his luck with an audacious 45-yard effort that Clarke was relieved to see drift wide.

McDermott’s boys threatened once more on 68 minutes, with the Donnelly-McMenamin double act again ripping the visiting defence to shreds...but this time Clarke got down to smother the former Cliftonville man’s shot.

But that killer second goal did arrive on 72 minutes.

This time it was McMenamin who returned the favour, producing a wonderful cross for Donnelly to get up above everyone else and power home.

GLENTORAN: McCarey, Kane, Burns, Marshall, J.Donnelly, McClean, Clucas (Powers, 88), McMenamin, Cushnie (R.Donnelly, 66), Plum (Crowe, 72), Cole.

Subs (not used): McCartan, O’Connor, Jenkins, Glendinning.

GLENAVON: Clarke, Birney, Haughey (O’Mahony, 88), O’Connor (J.Doyle, 73), Campbell, Snoddy (Garrett, 81), McCloskey, Fitzpatrick, Wallace, Singleton, Ward.

Subs (not used): A.Doyle, Scannell, Doran, Hamilton.

REFEREE: Lee Tavinder.