Peter Wilson reports from Inver Park
Larne eased into the sixth round of the Irish Cup with an 8-0 win against Ballymena and Provincial League minnows Belfast Celtic.
Braces from Marty Donnelly and Davy McDaid as well as goals from Harry Flowers, Albert Watson, Conor McKendry and Sean Graham ensured Larne progressed to face Ballyclare Comrades in the last 16, on Saturday 1st February.
Dean Jarvis made his debut for Larne in the game, while there will be concern for McKendry who came off injured after being introduced as a half-time substitute.
Larne were quick out of the traps as within the first minute, Mark Randall sprayed the ball to Marty Donnelly on the right who played in Johnny McMurray at the near post but he couldn’t finish, under pressure from a Celtic defender.
It took Larne just nine minutes to open the scoring. Tomas Cosgrove fed Donnelly the ball inside the box and he took the ball around the defender to slot home into the bottom right with his typical calmness and composure in front of goal.
The second goal arrived three minutes before the half-hour mark with Donnelly crossing in from the edge of the box on the right hand and his cross sailing into the net, as McMurray tried to connect his head to the ball.
Donnelly was again involved in number three on 31 minutes as he slipped the ball for Lee Lynch to cross to McDaid unmarked at the back post – the striker having the simple task of slamming into the net from six yards out.
An unrelenting first half display was capped off on the stroke of half time when from a corner on the left-hand side, Randall played a beautiful ball over the top into a ruck of players in the box. Amidst the crowd, Albert Watson popped up to head into the top corner, to make it 4-0 at half-time.
The Invermen picked up from where they left off in the second period. Substitute Conor McKendry took just eight minutes after coming on during the half-time break to score, as he controlled McDaid’s cross well and ruthlessly finished low with a half volley into the bottom right.
The sixth goal of the game came only four minutes after that as McDaid raced clear of the visiting defence and sumptuously lobbed the ball over the advancing Nugent from 15 yards out.
Just after the hour mark, it could have been seven but Harry Flower headed narrowly wide from Randall’s corner on the left.
The hosts added further misery for Belfast Celtic with 13 minutes to go as Tomas Cosgrove crossed from the right flank into Randall whose header was well saved by Nugent before substitute Sean Graham finished with a spectacular overhead kick into the net.
Belfast Celtic’s first effort of note came with three minutes left when former Larne player Darren Stuart unleashed a swivelling strike toward goal from 20 yards but Conor Devlin was comfortable in the end.
Larne rounded off the afternoon right at the end in the 89th minute when they took a free-kick on the right quickly, releasing Cosgrove down the right channel to play the ball in low toward goal and Flowers was on poke in to end a productive afternoon for Larne.
Larne: Devlin, Flowers, Watson (c), Sule, Randall, McDaid, Donnelly, Lynch (Tilney 61) Cosgrove, Jarvis, McMurray (McKendry 45) (Graham 68)
Unused Subs: Mitchell, Kelly, Ramsey, Hughes
Belfast Celtic: Nugent, C. Donnelly, M. Donnelly, Hanna, Tully (c), J. Lynch, Warwick (McGowan 79), Beatty, Stuart, K. Lynch (Gallagher 74), Lindsay (McKernan 45)
Unused Subs: Carson, Maxwell, McLaughlin, Haughey
Man of the Match: Marty Donnelly
Referee: Ben McMaster
Larne return to Premiership action on Friday 10 January, at home to Carrick Rangers. Kick off at Inver Park is 7.45pm.