BetMcLean Cup


28 Feb 2024

With Portadown and Linfield the only sides still standing in this season's BetMcLean Cup it should be remembered that it's been a long journey to get to this stage.

The competition itself kicked off as far back as August and has gone on to produce many twists and turns along the way.

Preliminary Round
The somewhat dubious honour of scoring the first goal in this season's competition fell to Limavady United defender Matthew Walker when, after just six minutes of the Roesiders clash with Tobermore United, he turned the ball into his own net.

Fortunately, Limavady responded positively and with some aplomb to run out eventual 6-1 winners thanks to a couple of goals apiece from Joe McCready and Alex Pomeroy, alongside strikes from Lewis Tosh and Ian Parkhill.

Lisburn Distillery got amongst the goals too, hitting four past Ballymacash Rangers in the Lisburn derby at the Bluebell Stadium while Portstewart progressed at the expense of Rathfriland Rangers via spot-kicks at Mullaghacall.

The preliminary round also produced victories for Coagh United, Dollingstown and Moyola Park.


First Round
Sides from the Premiership and Championship joined the fray in early October, and whilst the first round wasn't marked by any real upsets of note it still wasn't without its customary sprinkling of drama, excitements, what ifs and maybes.

Dergview, then still under the interim management of Ivan Sproule, came within moments of knocking out Premiership opponents Glenavon at Mourneview Park.

They matched their top flight hosts all the way to a scoreless draw after 90 minutes before moving in front with nine minutes of extra-time remaining when Marc Kirk smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

But Glenavon, in only their second outing under the recently appointed Stephen McDonnell, fought back to level through Sean Ward’s stunning volley from the edge of the box before the veteran did it again in stoppage time to break the hearts of the visitors.

And Coleraine, runners-up last season, were also taken all the way at home by Championship opponents Bangor.

Matthew Shevlin thought he had done enough to see the Bannsiders through when he broke the deadlock on 89 minutes, but the Seasiders hit back in the fifth minute of added time courtesy of a Ben Arthurs spot-kick.

However, Lee Lynch popped up midway through the first half of extra-time with a 25-yard drive past James Taylor to book a place in the next round for Oran Kearney’s side.

Holders Linfield experienced a scare of their own as they welcomed Queen’s University to Windsor Park.

Stewart Nixon fired the Students in front after just nine minutes with a clinical finish into the bottom corner but two goals from Joel Cooper – one in each half – and a John Robertson strike proved enough for the Blues in the end.

Larne were the biggest scorers on the night with a 9-1 defeat of Championship strugglers Knockbreda at Inver Park.

Micheal Glynn, Tomas Cosgrove and Ilijah Paul fired the Invermen into a commanding lead midway through the first before Joe Thomson bagged a hat-trick – one of only two on the night – with further finishes coming from Shea Gordon, Corey Smith and Lee Bonis later in the game.

Crusaders’ Ben Kennedy grabbed the only other hat-trick as Stephen Baxter’s side hit five without reply past Warrenpoint Town at Milltown.

Ards also hit five on the road as they swept past Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park while Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers and Portadown all knocked home four goals apiece with victories over Lisburn Distillery, Moyola Park and Coagh United.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville were untroubled as they defeated Institute 3-0 at Solitude with Dungannon Swifts also registering three home goals as they got past Championship leaders Newington.

Also making the cut for the last 16 were Annagh United, Glentoran, Newry City, Loughgall and Limavady United.


Second Round
The second round will be forever remembered for the almost world record setting events at the Ballymena Showgrounds between the Sky Blues and derby rivals Coleraine.

Scot Whiteside had handed United the lead just before the break, with Josh Carson levelling from the spot – ironically enough – around the hour mark.

The sides couldn’t be separated after normal or extra-time, with the inevitably of penalties needed to settle the tie.

However, no-one could have anticipated the drama that was to follow with both sets of players eventually having to take two spot-kicks each before Lee Lynch settled it with what turned out to be the winning penalty as Oran Kearney's side eventually emerged victorious 18-17 just before 11pm!

Spot-kicks were also required at the Loughview Leisure Arena as Newry City emerged 3-1 winners over Carrick Rangers.

Ciaran O’Connor opened the scoring on 18 minutes for the visitors with yet another penalty before Kyle Cherry levelled on the hour for Carrick.

Extra-time saw Reece Glendinning momentarily tip the balance in Carrick’s favour, with Adam Salley equalising soon after.

Newry then proved to be clinical from the spot with Georgie Poynton, Thomas Lockhart and Salley all finding the net with only David Cushley registering for Carrick as the visitors went through to the next stage.

Portadown produced the upset of the evening with a 2-1 defeat of Crusaders at Shamrock Park.

The Ports moved in front after just 11 minutes when, following a mix-up in the Crues defence, Kenneth Kane found himself through on goal and made no mistake from close range.

However, Mikhail Kennedy levelled for the visitors midway through the first half after slotting home from the edge of the box after Aaron Hogg had come off his line to try to win the ball from Lloyd Anderson.

But Eamon Fyfe knocked home the winner for the Championship side midway through the second half with a cool finish through Jonny Tuffey’s legs.

And there was almost an even bigger upset at Clandeboye Park as Ards took league champions Larne to extra-time before losing out in an eight-goal thriller.

Callum Dougan, Ross Hunter and Connor Maxwell all found the net for Ards with Sean Graham, Andy Ryan and Paul O’Neill responding for the visitors … but it was extra-time goals from Lee Bonis and O’Neill again that ultimately settled it in favour of Tiernan Lynch’s side.

Meanwhile, at Stangmore Park, Matthew Lusty hit the only goal of the game as Dungannon Swifts knocked out Cliftonville.

Lusty struck on 77 minutes after evading challenges from Luke Kenny and Shea Kearney to slot the ball past Nathan Gartside at the near post.

Loughgall and Glenavon also made it through to the last eight with defeats of Annagh United and Limavady United respectively.


Linfield, Portadown, Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts continued their journeys with victories in the quarter-finals.

Holders Linfield accounted for league champions Larne in a dramatic encounter at Inver Park that saw all the goals coming in the second half of extra-time before the issue was settled on spot-kicks.

Linfield were reduced to ten men early in extra-time after Kyle McClean was dismissed for a challenge on Donnelly, thus collecting his second caution of the evening.

Undeterred, the Blues moved in front on 109 minutes through Euan East who rose highest to nod home Aodhan Doherty's left-foot cross into the box.

Larne levelled three minutes later, however, courtesy of Lee Bonis' finish into the bottom corner before, just a couple of minutes after that, Leroy Millar sensationally edged Larne in front with a header from Cian Bolger's right-sided cross.

But Linfield hit back in the dying embers of extra-time through 16-year-old Braiden Graham's right-footed finish from inside the box to force the game into penalties.

And Graham proved to be the hero again, knocking home Linfield's winning spot-kick before Johns saved from Bonis to secure their place in the semi-finals.

The Ports hit two goals without reply past top flight visitors Loughgall at Shamrock Park.

The deadlock was broken on 68 minutes after Sam Cochrane laid the ball off for Eoghan McCawl to show great composure and fire past Berraat Turker from close range.

Loughgall were reduced to ten men soon after when Alberto Balde was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Dale Montgomery but, not long after that, the Ports also lost a man following Aaron Traynor's second caution of the evening for a foul on Aaron Duke.

But Portadown made sure of their place in the last four when Eamon Fyfe got on the end of a long ball forward to calmly beat Turker.

Meanwhile, at the Showgrounds, Glenavon defeated Coleraine by the odd goal in five.

It took just half-an-hour for the deadlock to be broken, with two goals coming within a couple of minutes of each other.

Jack Malone opened the scoring on 31 minutes after beating the offside trap to run onto Tiarnan Mulvenna's through ball and firing past Gareth Deane.

But Coleraine levelled moments later when, from a Lee Lynch free-kick, Graham Kelly flicked the ball on for the unmarked Dean Jarvis to knock the ball beyond Rory Brown at the far post.

Glenavon regained the lead on the stroke of half-time, however, through Aaron Prendergast's side foot volley after connecting with Peter Campbell's cross from the right.

And that was how it stayed until a couple of minutes from time when substitute Cohen Henderson hit a third for Glenavon with a sublime finish past Deane after Campbell had done well laying the ball off inside the area.

Coleraine hit back in stoppage time after a Conor McKendry cross evaded Brown before going into the net ... and they almost snatched a dramatic equaliser after that when only a combination of keeper and post prevented a Ciaran O'Hara effort from crossing the line!

Dungannon Swifts completed the semi-final line-up a week later with an extra-time defeat of Newry City at Stangmore Park.

Scoreless for most of the game, the deadlock was eventually broken on 72 minutes when Gallagher found the net for the Swifts after Lusty had cut the ball back into his path.

It was a short lived advantage, however, after Adam Carroll levelled for Newry just three minutes later when he rose highest to nod home Thomas Lockhart's corner.

Newry then moved in front on 86 minutes after another Lockhart delivery found Paul McGovern who took the ball past a defender before firing past keeper Declan Dunne.

But it was the Swifts' turn to reply with almost immediate effect a couple of minutes after that thanks to Tomas Galvin's flick beyond Maguire after being picked out by Lusty.

And there was almost a winner in normal time, but Ethan McGee's volley was headed off the line by Stephen Moan.

In extra-time Galvin struck again for the Swifts on 106 minutes with a close range finish from Joe Moore's cross into the area before, with a minute remaining, Kealan Dillon made sure for Rodney McAree's side after Moore again providing the telling ball from the right.


Linfield and Portadown booked their places in the decider following semi-final victories over Dungannon Swifts and Glenavon respectively.

Holders Linfield continued their defence of the trophy thanks to two Kyle McClean goals at Stangmore Park.

The Blues needed just seven minutes to seize the advantage. Skipper Jamie Mulgrew embarked on a run across the edge of the area before being brought down and, from the subsequent free-kick, McClean curled a stunning effort into the top right corner.

Rodney McAree's side were thrown a potential lifeline early in the second half when Linfield were reduced to ten men following Euan East's dismissal for attempting to block a Declan Dunne clearance from his hands, his second booking of the game.

But Linfield doubled their advantage on 70 minutes with McClean's second of the evening after he ran onto the ball to beat Dunne at the second attempt after the home keeper had saved the initial effort.

However, the Swifts did pull one back eight minutes from time through Joe Moore after he pounced on a loose ball inside the box before firing low into the bottom right corner ... but it wasn't enough to spark a comeback as Linfield held on to progress.

Portadown needed only a first half spot-kick to get past Mid Ulster neighbours Glenavon at Mourneview Park.

The deadlock was broken just before the half-hour mark. Portadown striker Zach Barr burst into the box only to be brought down by keeper Mark Byrne and, from the subsequent spot-kick, Ryan Mayse confidently tucked the ball away.

The Ports might have doubled their lead early in the second half when Mayse laid the ball off for Eamon Fyfe across the box, but he could only fire wide from point blank range.

Moments later Glenavon came within a whisker of grabbing the equaliser when Jack Malone unleashed a superb strike from around 20 yards only for the ball to come crashing back off the left post.

Niall Currie's almost that second insurance goal late in the game after Kenny Kane went one-on-one with Byrne only for the Glenavon keeper to make the save before David Toure cleared the danger.