21 Apr 2023
© Pacemaker Press

It was night over 130 years in the making, the night Larne lifted the Gibson Cup for the first time in the long history of the club.

Given a guard of honour by outgoing champions Linfield, Tiernan Lynch's side started brightly when Fuad Sale sent an early effort just wide of the post with a right-footed strike from just outside the area.

Further half chances followed through Lee Bonis and Andy Ryan before Joel Cooper came close for the Blues after pouncing on a misplaced Cian Bolger pass only to curl his shot wide of the target.

But the deadlock was broken in Larne's favour when, following a 39th minute one-two with Joe Thomson, he let fly with a perfectly executed left-foot effort beyond the reach of Chris Johns into the top corner.

Linfield might have responded just before the break through a low, hard Cooper effort at the near post only for Rohan Ferguson to keep the ball out with his feet.

Larne might have doubled their advantage just before hour when Bonis came within a whisker of finding the target with a header past Chris Johns from Micheal Glynn's left-sided cross only for the ball to strike the crossbar.

However, a moment later at the other end, Linfield levelled thanks to a superbly struck right-foot strike from Stephen Fallon which fizzed past Ferguson into the back of the net.

Then, not long after that, Larne almost regained the advantage after Bonis directed a header towards goal only for Kyle McClean to make a timely goalline clearance.

That was how it stayed for the remainder of the game with both sides restricted to largely half chances.

The point moved Linfield a step closer to securing second spot and automatic European football in the summer while, for Larne, it heralded a night of celebration at Inver Park when they were presented with the Danske Bank Premiership trophy amid memorable scenes on the pitch, on the terraces and in the stands.

Larne: Ferguson, Want, Kelly, Sule, Bonis, Gordon, Bolger, Thomson, Millar, Glynn, Ryan subs Pardington, Watson, Kearns, Randall, Maguire, Hughes, Wolters

Linfield: Johns, Roscoe, Shields, Callacher, Millar, McClean, Cooper, M. Clarke, Finlayson, Fallon, Vertainen subs Walsh, Newberry, Devine, Haygarth, Pepper, Lafferty, Quinn