Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup quarter-final 

Cliftonville 1– 2 Dungannon Swifts 

Cliftonville exited the Irish Cup after an abject showing saw Dungannon Swifts stun the title contenders with a 2-1 win in Saturday’s quarter-final clash at Solitude. 

The Swifts had the better of the first-half showings but didn’t make the breakthrough until the 56th minute when Rhyss Campbell headed past Gartside and the winger then doubled his side's advantage before the hour-mark. 

Cliftonville huffed and puffed, but in truth didn’t look remotely capable of a comeback until Joe Gormley hooked home from a Sean Moore cross a minute into injury time. 

Paddy McLaughlin’s side were unable to salvage an equaliser and exited the Cup to the same opponents who inflicted the Reds’ last home defeat in the competition back in January 2019. 

Speaking afterwards, McLaughlin’s overriding emotions were of disappointment and frustration at what he saw from his players. 

“I’m so disappointed and so frustrated,” McLaughlin admitted. 

“At no stage in the game did we show the intensity and the quality that we would show, especially at home. Going back to last week’s game, the energy that we brought to the game and work-rate and everything that we did was lacking today. 

“It’s so frustrating for the players and the staff because of the work that they put in and I’m sure for the supporters. We know this record that the club have had in the Irish Cup and how long it has been. I did genuinely believe that the opportunity would have been there this year. 

“Especially at home in the quarter-final and the semi-final at a neutral ground. It was there for us, and we prepared, everything was exactly the same as we always do. We’ve nothing to blame, there are no excuses there for us. We just didn’t perform.”

 Jamie McDonagh is challenged by Michael Ruddy

Jamie McDonagh is challenged by Michael Ruddy

McLaughlin was forced into one alteration from the side that defeated Glentoran last weekend. Aaron Traynor missed out through injury and Luke Turner returned to the starting 11. 

The first half opened quite slowly as Caolin Coyle let fly with an effort from distance that Nathan Gartside claimed. 

At the other end, Ronan Hale’s free-kick clipped the wall and a cross to the back post found older sibling Rory whose attempt was deflected behind for a corner, which would come to nothing. 

The Swifts had the first real opportunity after the half-hour mark. James Knowles directed a free-kick into the path of Ethan McGee, who somehow glanced wide from four yards out at the back post. 

Ronan Hale then let fly with a half volley that Declan Dunne got down to smother and at the break, it remained scoreless. 

Dungannon started the second period brightly and should have hit the front when Rhyss Campbell cut in at the by-line and tried to pick out Joe McCready at the back post, only for Jonny Addis to cut the danger out at the expense of a corner. 

The Swifts eventually made the deserved breakthrough in the 56th minute. Jordan Jenkins' quick pass from a free-kick caught the hosts napping and Ethan McGee drove a high ball across that Rhyss Campbell nodded home at the near post to give his side the lead. 

Campbell doubled his account and Dungannon’s lead before the hour mark. Caolin Coyle nipped in ahead of Sean Moore and found Ethan McGee who slipped in Campbell who burst goalward and sent a low shot past Gartside to make it 2-0. 

Ryan Curran, David Parkhouse, and Chris Curran entered the fray as Paddy McLaughlin sought an immediate reaction. 

It was the visitors who had the opportunity to extend their lead instead. Campbell made room for a shot and saw it parried by Gartside and the Reds’ goalkeeper needed to be alert to turn a further effort behind for a corner. James Knowles then curled a free kick over the bar. 

Cliftonville’s luck in front of goal showed no sign of changing and Declan Dunne remained largely untested. 

Ronan Hale snatched at a chance from Jamie McDonagh’s knockdown, and the Reds’ talisman then saw an effort whistle wide of the post from Moore’s cross. 

A minute into injury time Joe Gormley sparked fresh hope of a comeback when Chris Curran linked up with Moore whose low cross was volleyed home by the 33-year-old. 

It proved too little, too late as the Swifts managed to see the game through and claim an unlikely cup triumph in North Belfast and leave the Reds with much soul searching ahead of a vital North Belfast derby with Crusaders on March 13. 

CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Coates (C Curran 72’), Turner (McDonagh 46’), Gallagher (R Curran 60’), Doherty, Rory Hale (Parkhouse 65’), Moore, Ronan Hale, Gormley. 

DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Breen, Coyle, McGinty, Curry, Ruddy, Knowles, Mayse, McGee, Campbell, McCready ( Scott 90+4’), Jenkins (Cushnie 64’). 

REFEREE: Jamie Robinson