THE Gibson Cup may already be secured in the Inver Park trophy room, but the prize remains great for Glentoran and Cliftonville at The Oval on Saturday (4.30pm) when they meet to decide which team will enter the Europa Conference League playoffs this summer.

Both clubs will reflect on the season and have regrets they are in this position with Glentoran looking like a serious contender for the title earlier in the season before a huge dip in form before Christmas that culminated in the departure of Mick McDermott as manager.

Rodney McAree stepped in and while the East Belfast side's form improved greatly, they were too far off the pace to make any kind of charge at top honours but entered the European playoffs with the spring in their step and due to their third-place finish, were guaranteed hoe advantage in the playoffs.

Cliftonville won the first three league meetings between the teams this season, but the most recent clash - following the departure of Paddy McLaughlin as manager with Declan O'Hara stepping in on an interim basis - saw the Glens claim a 3-0 win at home thanks to a Bobby Burns brace after Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe opened the scoring.

"The Glens are a good side,” said O'Hara. 

"It is going to be a tough battle and it’s down to who wants it more on the day. If we get the performance, we won’t be far off. 

“We’ll sit down as a staff and prepare properly with the players. It’s only a short period of time between the semi-final and the final but we’ll put in as much hours as possible to get the job done.”

The Glens swatted aside Glenavon in Wednesday's playoff semi-final with goals from Luke McCullough and Conor McMenamin putting them in a good position at the break, while an own goal from Robert Garrett, plus strikes from Jay and Ruaidhri  Donnelly completed a 5-0 rout that leaves them 90 minutes from European football.

Cliftonville were also two up at the break in their semi-final at home to Coleraine with goals from Ryan Curran and Ronan Doherty inside the opening 20 minutes suggesting it would be a comfortable evening, but when Matthew Shevlin pulled one back on 72 minutes, it became a nervy finish, yet The Reds held on for a win and a place in the final.

"We expect a tough game from Cliftonville on Saturday," Glentoran manager Rodney McAree told the club website.

"They’re a very good side and had to beat a good Coleraine side to get to this final. But we’re at home and this is one everyone in and around the squad is looking forward to. 

"A lot of the players were in the final last season and felt the pain of that defeat, But they’ve learned from it.

"Obviously we expect a difficult game but we’re also a very good team so we’ll go into it in a very positive frame of mind and a determination to make sure we’re playing in Europe next season."