SLIDESHOW: Celebration time at Seaview as Crusaders finish season in style


It was a day the game didn’t really matter.

Crusaders players and staff celebrate

Crusaders players and staff celebrate

Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders at last got their hands on the Gibson Cup after an 18 year wait.

Seaview turned into a carnival red and black balloons, a samba band, face painting and the Danske Premiership presentation.

The big North Belfast crowd bathed in the sunshine and first half goals from Declan Caddell and Paul Heatley, who was named the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters’ Club Ulster Player of the Year on Thursday, getting the party started.

Defender Billy Joe Burns hit the third before Heatley wrapped up a totally memorable afternoon.

It was also a special occasion for Glenavon defender William Murphy, who played his final game following a star-studded 25 years.

“The hard work was achieved over the course of the season,” said Baxter.

“Having got the job done, they boys just went out to enjoy themselves.”

The Crues almost scored after only two minutes when Craig McCleans cross was powered in by the head of Jordan Owens, only for Glenavon midfielder Cairan Martyn to head to ball off the line.

But from the resulting corner kick, Owens again got his head to the cross, leaving Caddell with a tap in.

It could have been two on five minutes. Richard Clarke’s free kick found the towering Owens, whose header was superbly saved by goalkeeper James McGrath.

But the Crues struck again on 12 minutes. This time Gavin Whyte threaded a superb pass into the path of Heatley, whose touch took him past the stranded McGrath and he finished with aplomb.

It was all one-way traffice. Heatley’s low drive was knocked off the line Murphy before the exciting Whyte brought the best out of McGrath with a curling shot form outside the box.

And, seconds later defender Billy Joe Burns was right out of luck when his drive kissed the base of the post with McGrath totally beaten.

The home team thought they had bagged a third when Whyte picked out Heatley, whose header was converted by Caddell, but referee Colin Burns, making his final appearance, ruled out the effort and the midfielder had strayed offside.

Just before the break, McGrath rescued the visitors again, somehow pawing an Owens header on to the bar following a delicious cross from Clarke.

Glenavon had to wait until the 50th minute for their first attempt on goal.

Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien tried his luck from distance, but his effort was beaten away by goalkeeper Sean O’Neill.

But normal service resumed at the other end six minutes later with Heatley curling a delightful effort inches past the post.

The Crues should have been out of sight on 70 minutes when a lightning break by Timmy Adamson and Burns created a chance for Stephen O’Flynn, whose thundering shot clipped the top of the crossbar.

McGrath then produced another wonder save to deny Owens, but he could do little about the Crues third goal on 74 minutes when Burns surged down the right before blasting the ball high into the net.

But Heatley finished the game in style by hitting the Crues fourth in the last minute. Nathan Hanley’s pass was superbly chested into the path of the little striker by O’Flynn and his finish was emphatic, drilling the ball low into the bottom corner.

Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Magowan (Leeman 76), Coates, McClean (Hanley 59), Caddell (Adamson 59), Clarke, Whyte, Heatley, Owens, O’Flynn.

Subs not used: O’Carroll, O’Hanlon.

Glenavon: McGrath, McKeown Lynch 62), Murphy, Kilmartin (Marshall 74), Rea, Patton, Caldwell, McGrory, O’Brien, Martyn, Elebert (Kelly 46).

Subs not used: Kelly, Lindsay.

Referee: C Burns (Comber).