Hughes nets winning penalty as Larne end trophy drought

Dec 3, 2020 | Archive

Larne’s first trophy triumph in more than three decades will long in the memory, even if the match which clinched it will not.

Tiernan Lynch’s men and Glentoran played out the second scoreless draw against each other inside a month.

Larne came into the game having made three changes from the side which defeated Coleraine 2-0 at the weekend, to go to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership. Back into the starting XI came Marty Donnelly, Lee Lynch and Mark Randall, who was fit again after a two-match injury lay-off.

By contrast, Glentoran retained just three of the side which saw them comfortably beat Dungannon Swifts 5-1 at the Oval.

Many would have made Larne favourites for the game when the teamsheets were handed in an hour before kick-off, however Glentoran were resolute in their defending, content to left Larne have the ball in their own half and attempt to snuff out the danger once they crossed the halfway line.

The Invermen had their first opportunity of the game, with 11 minutes gone. Marty Donnelly found some space on the right flank, and his cross was nodded into the path of Mark Randall at the back post, but he fired over 15 yards out.

At the other end, Andy Mitchell got on the end of a well-placed free-kick delivery and aimed his header towards the bottom right corner, but Conor Devlin did well to hold it at full stretch.

Larne’s best opportunity of the first half came two minutes before the break. This time they moved the ball well down the left flank, before finding Donnelly on the left side of the box, but his low effort was comfortably held by Rory Brown.

Lynch’s men started the second half with good purpose, but it took until a minute before the hour mark to trouble Brown in the Glentoran goal.

This time, a powerful run by Davy McDaid ended with the striker letting fly from 20 yards out and his deflected looped up perfectly for Marty Donnelly at the back post, but his goalward header was kept out superbly by Brown’s fingertip save.

Two minutes later, Jay Donnelly almost made an instant impact at the other end after coming off the substitute’s bench. He found space on the right flank, but his low drive from just outside the box was well held by Devlin.

There were appeals for a Glentoran penalty with 11 minutes left on the clock when a cross from the left was deflected on to his own crossbar by Jeff Hughes, but referee Keith Kennedy waved away the protests.

Gael Bigiramana came close to connecting with a header at the back post as Glentoran pushed for a winner before the end of the 90 minutes.

However, the deadlock wasn’t broken and the game went straight to penalties, as per the competition’s rules this season.

Glentoran were up first and Robbie McDaid scored his to put the Glens ahead. By contrast, Larne had the worst start possible when Davy McDaid saw his penalty saved by Brown.

Conor Devlin stepped up to the mark next for Larne however, when he saved from Jay Donnelly, and this allowed Marty Donnelly to level matters at 1-1 in the shoot-out.

Gael Bigirimana confidently sent his effort into the top left corner to restore the lead, before Josh Robinson blasted home another leveller.

Chris Gallagher then squeezed his effort home to make it 3-2, with Fuad Sule confidently dinking his effort past Brown.

With the final penalty approaching for both sides , and the shoot-out score level at three apiece we were now into sudden death from the spot.

Conor Devlin was the man for the occasion once more, as he saved low down to his right.

That gave Jeff Hughes the opportunity to win the Shield and that he did as he sent Brown the wrong way and rolled the ball into the bottom right corner to spark joyous scenes among the players.

It may have been a forgettable final, but it was a memorable moment for the captain and everyone associated with the club.

Larne: Devlin, Kelly, Watson, Robinson, Sule, Herron, Randall (Hughes), McDaid, Donnelly Lynch (Scott), Cosgrove

Unused subs: C Mitchell, A Mitchell, Murr, Wade Slater, Hale, McMurray

Glentoran: Brown, Smith, Kane, Crowe, Cowan, Bigirimana, Gallagher, McDonagh (McDaid), R. Donnelly, Stewart (J. Donnelly) & Mitchell (McClean)

Unused subs: Coleing, Gorman, O’Neill, Marron

Referee: Keith Kennedy

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