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Treble in paradise for Joe

Cliftonville 4-1 Crusaders

Joe Gormley smashed home a hat-trick as Cliftonville powered past Crusaders in this afternoon’s Tennent’s Irish Cup Sixth Round showdown at Solitude.

After visiting midfielder Declan Caddell picked up a second yellow card for a penalty box foul on Conor McDonald, Gormley saw the resulting spot-kick saved by goalkeeper Brian Jensen – but, when it transpired that the dismissed Caddell had not yet left the pitch, referee Raymond Hetherington had no choice but to award a retake and this time Gormley made no mistake.

Cliftonville were awarded a second – or third, depending on your perspective – penalty when Craig McClean tripped Rory Donnelly and, again, Gormley did the job from 12 yards.

He completed his treble with a close-range conversion after superb work by Donnelly early in the second period, with Stephen Garrett scrambling home a fourth ahead of Gavin Whyte netting a consolation with a spot-kick of his own after Tomas Cosgrove had been cited for handball.

The first opportunity of the day fell to Whyte, who blazed over the top, before Johnny Bonner dragged an attempt harmlessly wide of the mark.

Jordan Owens should have put the Crues in front on 17 minutes but, after being presented the ball by Brian Neeson’s punch, he touched his effort over the bar.

Bonner then seized on a loose pass to put Paul Heatley in the clear and, when his strike found the base of the post, Garry Breen was on hand to clear the danger.

Despite that poor start, Cliftonville took a firm grip on proceedings thereafter and should have gone ahead when a Cosgrove free-kick was missed by Breen but fell perfectly for Harney who, unaware of precisely how much time and space he had, miscued wide.

On 35 minutes, Rory Donnelly’s throughball set Conor McDonald through on goal and, when he was hauled down by Caddell, the referee had no choice but to flash a second yellow card in the direction of the midfielder who had earlier been cautioned for a cynical foul on Garrett.

Gormley stepped up to take the resulting penalty kick only to see his strike repelled by Jensen. However, when it transpired that the dismissed Caddell had not yet left the pitch, a retake was ordered and this time Gormley took full advantage.

The Reds should have had another penalty shortly afterwards when Donnelly was dragged to the ground by Billy Joe Burns, however they didn’t have long to wait for their next spot-kick appeal and, when Donnelly was clattered by Craig McClean, this time the referee had no hestitation. Gormley obliged again to double the hosts’ lead.

After the interval, a superb blocking challenge from Chris Curran set the tone as the Reds went in search of a third goal which duly arrived when Donnelly took control of a Neeson clearance and rolled the ball into the danger area, where Gormley pounced to seal his treble.

Just past the hour, it was 4-0. Curran’s weaving run down the right took him past a host of defenders and he pulled the ball back for Garrett, who saw his initial attempt saved before getting just enough of a touch on the rebound to get the better of Jensen.

Gormley might have had a fourth for himself when he charged down Jensen’s attempted clearance but found the angle to narrow to make the most of ahead of referee Hetherington awarding yet another penalty when he penalised Cosgrove for handling; Whyte converting to reduce the arrears.

A horrible challenge on Curran by Heatley earned a free-kick which McDonald delivered into the area, where Breen rose only to see his header turned over the top by Jensen.

The keeper would also deny substitute Jay Donnelly and elder brother Rory before McDonald tried his luck, but Cliftonville were unable to add to their advantage as a long wait for North Belfast Derby success was ended in memorable style.

Cliftonville: Neeson, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Garrett, Bagnall, Gormley, Cosgrove, McDonald, R Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, McGovern, Winchester, J Donnelly (for Gormley, 80 mins), Lavery, A Donnelly, Grimes.

Sean Graham Man of the Match: Joe Gormley
Half Gate Draw Number: 76262