BetMcLean Cup


09 Mar 2022
© Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Coleraine go into Sunday's BetMcLean League Cup final looking to create a little bit of competition history by becoming the first side outside Belfast to retain the trophy, and only the third since the tournament began back in the latter part of the 1980s.

The Bannsiders first triumph came way back in the second edition when Sammy McQuiston bagged the only goal of the game in extra-time in the November 1987 defeat of Portadown at The Oval, scoring at the second attempt after legendary Ports keeper Mickey Keenan had kept out his initial effort.

Unfortunately Coleraine then had to endure a wait of over 32 years to taste victory again - itself a competition record - when Oran Kearney's side came from behind to get the better of Crusaders at Windsor Park.

© Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

In the three decades or so that came between those two victories the Bannsiders reached no fewer than five finals, all without success.

Their next appearance came in the 1992/93 decider against Bangor (a 3-0 defeat) and again the following season when they went down 2-0 to Linfield, with the Blues once more putting paid to their hopes of lifting the trophy during the 1999/00 campaign with a thumping 4-0 victory at Windsor.

And there was further heartbreak a decade after that when the Bannsiders lost on penalties to Glentoran. The sides traded goals inside the first ten minutes, with Darren Boyce finding the net for Coleraine just sixty seconds after Ciaran Martyn had opened the scoring.

Rory Patterson edged David Platt's side in front just after half-hour mark before Colin Nixon levelled for the Glens on the stroke of half-time.

That was how it stayed for the remainder of normal and extra-time but misses in the shootout from Boyce and Aaron Canning proved costly.

Coleraine were back in the final a couple of seasons later, however, only to go down to a Chris Morrow 34th minute finish as Crusaders emerged victorious in Ballymena.

© Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

That long run of disappointment finally came to an end on 15th February 2020. Again, the Crues were the opponents and again things looked ominous when Jamie McGonigle, himself a former Bannsider, opened the scoring as early as the tenth minute.

But this time the outcome was to be different. Stephen Lowry levelled from the spot on 37 minutes, awarded after Jamie Glackin had brought down by Rodney Brown and Billy Joe Burns, before James McLaughlin knocked home the winner early in the second half with a close range header.

Whatever happens on Sunday, Coleraine will hold onto their crown of being the most successful 'country' club in the history of the competition while a successful outcome will see them break the dominance of the four city based sides at the top of the overall rankings.