BetMcLean Cup


13 Mar 2022
© Pacemaker Press Chris Curran, Levi Ives, Lyndon Kane and Matthew Shevlin

With holders Coleraine looking for back-to-back victories, treble chasing Cliftonville striving to stop them, a Sunday final and a record crowd of over 10,000 fans coming along for the ride today's BetMcLean League Cup decider has all the makings of an occasion to savour.

Coleraine have been impressive in their defence of the trophy they won back in 2020, hitting 15 goals along the way and conceding just one as Bangor, Carrick Rangers, Glentoran and Warrenpoint Town all fell by the wayside.

But the Bannsiders come into the game on the back of a disappointing run of results, most recently a 1-0 reversal away to Crusaders on Tuesday evening, and only one win in their last six outings.

Cliftonville's progress to the final has brought victories over HW Welders, Ards, Portadown and Ballymena United with the Reds still very much in the hunt for a triple dose of silverware with additional interest ongoing in both the Premiership and Irish Cup all on top of a current six game winning streak.

© Pacemaker Press

This will be the fifth meeting between the sides this season, with the Reds winning three and the other ending all square.

The most recent, just last week, brought a 2-1 victory for the Reds in an Irish Cup quarter-final at Solitude. Lyndon Kane fired Coleraine in front midway through the first half but goals midway through the second half from Joe Gormley and Jamie McDonagh saw Paddy McLaughlin's side progress.

Prior to that, barely four weeks ago and again at Solitude, a Ryan Curran quick fire double not long after the interval saw Cliftonville collect all three league points on offer. He opened the scoring on 48 minutes when he diverted Kris Lowe's cross home from close range, and followed that up just five minutes later after connecting with Ronan Doherty's low left-sided delivery.

There was a scoreless draw in November on a rotten night at The Showgrounds when Eoin Bradley came closest with an effort onto the crossbar moments after coming off the bench while, at the end of August, a Stephen O'Donnell own goal tipped the balance in Cliftonville's favour as the Reds won by the odd goal in three.

Today's game, the first major domestic final to be played on a Sunday, will be officiated by referee Andrew Davey, alongside assistants Ryan Kelsey and Gareth Eakin, while Tony Clarke assumes fourth official duties.

The game will be broadcast on Sky Sports, with coverage beginning at 2:30pm.

© Pacemaker Press Paddy McLaughlin and Oran Kearney