Sports

Dungannon Swifts are Irish League Cup Champions

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Dungannon Swifts are Irish League Cup Champions thumbnailThe starting linep on a historic night for Dungannon Swifts.

ON a nippy Saturday night, Dungannon Swifts made history as they took to the pitch at the National Stadium at Windsor Park to face Ballymena United in the Irish League Cup Final.

Ballymena United...1
Dungannon Swifts...3

A large contingent of traveling made fans made their way to Windsor Park as a total of 2,995 fans made their way to the national stadium for the match and were boisterous throughout, with the sound of drums ringing in the ears long after the final whistle was blown.

Returning to Windsor Park 11 years after their last major final the Swifts impressed from the off playing good possession football.

Hoping for a repeat of October's clash with Ballymena when the Stangmore men won 2-1, the Swifts started the game and looked to find their rhythm.

Things almost got off to a poor start when Christopher Hegarty took too long on it at the back and was nearly closed down in the middle of the box.

Despite that moment, the Swifts grew in confidence and maintained possession for the games first two minutes not really giving their Ballymena counterparts much chance.

A poor pass from Jarlath O'Rorke lead to Ballymena's first chance of the game but it comes to nothing with Addis untroubled by the effort.

In the fifth minute some nice build up play by the Swifts looked to have found a opening for McElroy to charge into the Ballymena United box but he was unable to take control of the ball and the move fizzled out.

The first 10 minutes produced little in the way of goal mouth action, though Swifts captain Ryan Harpur was beginning to find a lot of space sitting behind McElroy.

It was this ability fo find space that led to the Swifts first goal in the 11th minute.

On the left hand side McElroy crossed the ball beyond the goal to the unmarked Harpur who headed it back for Ryan Mayse to finish superbly on the half volley.

The goal gave the Swifts the belief that this could be their year.

However, the goal seemed to spur Ballymena on and straight from the restart they worked the ball through Dungannon's half and got the shot away but it felt harmlessly over the bar.

Throughout the first half Dungannon were the brightest and first to almost every second ball.

Paul McElroy was a more than willing runner upfront and his perseverance ensured the Swifts always looked dangerous on the counter and had an out ball when soaking up pressure.

Ballymena's first real chance came in the 18th minute and it produced a brilliant fingertip save from Addis.

Connor McCluskey drove with the ball and lined up the shot from outside the box.

Addis did well save but from the resulting corner Ballymena United drew level.

Kyle Owens was the man to give Ballymena hope. A Leroy Millar corner was whipped under the cross bar and with Addis boxed in and unable to claim the ball Kyle Owens rose powerfully behind Addis to beat everyone to the ball and heads home.

The goal momentarily deflated the Swifts traveling support but it didn't take them long to start cheering again.

There were a few chances in the middle period of the first half with Ervin sending the ball over the bar and Mayse sending his effort straight at Glendinning.

Burke had a sensational long range effort tipped over the bar by Glennding in 25th minute and the 'keeper punched the resulting corner clear.

In the 31st minute their was a clash of heads between Seanan Clucas and Grant Hutchinson, thankfully both men were on their feet and able to continue within minutes.

The games first yellow cards were produced in the 33rd minute as a free-kick was awarded to Swifts David Armstrong and Kofi Balmer had a disagreement on the pitch and the referee, Tim Marshall, booked both for their actions.

O'Rourke over the free kick in the 33 minute and it was touched behind for a corner that was deflected behind for another.

It really should have been 2-1 to Dungannon from the resulting corner as Ryan Harpur rose unmarked in the centre of the box but came back to earth with his head in his hands as he failed to keep his effort on target.

However, it wasn't long before Ryan Mayse was again showing his team how to find the back of the net.

Seanan Clucas did well down the right to find the former Ballinamallard man whose first effort was stopped by Glendinning but in a great display of tenacity and determination he converted at the second time of asking to give the Swifts the lead again.

The Swifts backline showed great attention to detail as they played the Ballymena United attack offside with regularity with Johnny McMurray caught on the wrong side of the defensive line a few times as the half reached its conclusion.

The Swifts soaked up pressure at the end of the half and had a great chance to score their third on the counter.

Paul McElroy beat his man and broke clear down the left, he drove into the box and should have picked the unmarked runner who would have been left with just Glendinning to beat but he failed to get his head up and didn't release the ball quickly enough.

At the start of the second half Seanan Clucas was replaced by Dougas Wilson and once again it was the Swifts who started the brightest.

An early effort from Cormac Burke from distance goes high and very wide but the Swifts maintained the pressure.

In the 50th minute Ballymena had a penalty shout as McMurray took the ball down well between two Swifts' centre-backs and fashioned a shot before being muscled out of his second attempt.

There were cries of penalty from the Ballymena fans for penalty but the referee was having none of it and awarded the Swifts a free-kick.

Ballymena's second booking was the result of a bad challenge by Andrew Burns on Grant Hutchinson on the halfway line in the 52nd minute.

The Swifts started to drop deeper as the second half progressed by Paul McElroy never tired and kept on providing the necessary movement demanded by his role.

In the 55th minute a moment of magic from Cormac Burke sealed the win for the Swifts.

On edge of area he looked up and cooly picked his spot almost passing it into the bottom corner giving Glendinning no chance.

The 'keeper didn't even dive the ball was that well placed.

In the 66th minute Ballymena United had a free-kick near the corner flag that allowed them to set up almost identically to their first goal only this time Addis was authoritative and collected the ball.

David Jeffery had seen enough at this point and made a double substitution swapping Burns and Faulkner for Patrick Weir and Matthew Shelvin in the 67th minute.

Addis was again under pressure in the 68th minute but a cracking finger-tip save denied Ballymena again.

Ballymena started to step up the pressure as they went in search of the two goals they needed but the Swifts back line looked organised and gave the type of display that was sure to impress head coach Rodney McAree.

To a roaring round of applause Dungannon's two goal heart, Ryan Mayse made his way off the pitch in the 75th minute to be replaced by Ally Teggart. Ally Teggart introduced for Swifts. for Mayse 75th minute.

And in the 79th minute the game looked as good as won as Ryan Harpur was having fun keeping the ball in the corner.

However moments later Dungannon's captain was sent off for an off the ball incident.

This led to a Cormac Burke being replaced by Terry Fitzpatrick and a nervy finished for the Stangmore men.

Shortly after, Ballymena United made their final sub, Francis McCaffrey for Balmer.

Superb battling by Terry Fitzpatrick denied Ballymena a chance while the Swifts were reduced to eight men as a result of a cut to Wilson..

In truth Ballymena, offered little threat in the final minutes and some smart by the Dungannon men drew the foul that allowed them to relieve the pressure.

In the five minutes of added time Swifts fans start singing 'Championes' and as Millar's shot flashed wide Tim marshall blew his full time whistle and just like that, Dungannon Swifts made history as the 2018 BetMcLean League Cup Champions.

Dungannon Swifts: Stuart Addis, SeananClucas (Dougie Wilson, 46), Davy Armstrong, Christopher Hegarty, Jarlath O'Rourke, Kris Lowe, Ryan Harpur, Grant Hutchinson, Cormac Burke (Terry Fitzpatrick, 82),  Ryan Mayse (Ally Teggart, 75), Paul McElroy,

Subs not used: Andrew Coleman, Rhyss Campbell

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