Report by Peter Wilson
Photo: Bill Guiller
Larne thumped Linfield in the County Antrim Shield semi-final as they put in a superb four goal display against the current Premiership champions, to book their place in a first senior final in 15 years.
Although Linfield took an early lead through Ross Larkin, a red card for Stephen Fallon allowed Marty Donnelly to reply soon after. A double for Davy McDaid and a late John Herron goal helped to deliver the comprehensive result.
Johnny McMurray came off the bench and made his first appearance since his ACL injury in January.
Linfield kicked off in the first half and were the first to have a shot at goal; Shayne Lavery made a good run down the left channel but was dispossessed by Josh Robinson. The striker won the ball back but fired well wide.
On seven minutes, the Blues took the lead as a Navid Nasseri free-kick near the touchline on the left-hand side was met by the head of Ross Larkin to give the visitors an early lead.
The visitors went down to 10 men on 12 after Stephen Fallon fouled Mark Randall, who had won the ball back from the Blues midfielder 20 yards out from goal.
Marty Donnelly swept the resulting free-kick from the edge of the ‘d’ over the wall with his left foot and into the bottom left two minutes later to bring the Invermen level.
With 16 minutes gone, after a foul on Davy McDaid, Mark Randall had the chance to put Larne in the lead but sent his free-kick from 25 yards over the bar.
Just before the half hour mark, Larne did indeed take the lead as Donnelly crossed the ball into the area. Linfield couldn’t clear their lines and McDaid capitalised by dispatching a sweet effort into the bottom right from eight yards.
The momentum was with Larne for the rest of the half but they couldn’t extend their advantage at this point.
Half-time: Larne 2 Linfield 1
Larne kicked off in the second half and there was little to report early in the period with both teams sitting in and aiming to keep possession.
The Invermen doubled their lead on 67 minutes through McDaid’s second of the night. The striker blazed into the box but was dispossessed by two defenders. In the scramble, Lee Lynch collected the ball and chipped it into the striker who tapped home at the back post.
A minute later, Larne made a double substitution as John Herron replaced Mark Randall and Andy Mitchell came on for Jeff Hughes.
With 13 minutes left, Donnelly had a go from distance with his swerving effort curling wide of the left post.
With 83 minutes gone, Johnny McMurray came on for Davy McDaid as he bounced back from his long spell out with injury much to the delight of the home crowd.
With six minutes left of normal time, Linfield skipper Niall Quinn whipped in a free-kick from the right and Larkin headed it down and wide.
John Herron rounded off the scoring with three minutes left. Marty Donnelly knocked in the corner from the right-hand side and the Scotsman connected well with his head at the front post to guide the ball into the bottom right-hand corner past Chris Johns.
Larne are through to the County Antrim Shield final against Glentoran, with the game currently scheduled for Tuesday 1st December.
It will be the club’s first final since the 2011 Steel & Sons defeat to Bangor, and first senior decider since losing to Portadown in the 2005 Irish Cup finale.
Full-time: Larne 4 Linfield 1
Larne: Devlin, Watson, Robinson, Sule, Randall (Herron 68’), McDaid (McMurray 83’), Donnelly, Lynch, Cosgrove, Hughes (A Mitchell 68’), Jarvis
Unused Subs: C Mitchell, Hale, Scott, Wade Slater
Linfield: Johns, Larkin, Lavery, Nasseri (Stewart 69’), Clarke, Kearns (McClean 46’), Fallon (Sent off 12’), Hery (Waterworth 46’), McGivern, Boyle, Quinn (c)
Unused Subs: Moore, Stafford, Shevlin, Doyle
MOTM: Davy McDaid
Referee: Steven Gregg
Larne are back in league action on Saturday 7 November against Glentoran at the Oval (5.30pm).