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The first Final countdown

It’s common knowledge that Cliftonville lost the first ever Irish Cup Final, but how much do you know about the 1880/81 season in which it took place?

Commencing a new retrospective series examining significant campaigns in the Club’s history, today reflects on the facts and figures behind the Reds’ run to the inaugural Cup Final.

Though the team’s official record that season was Played 4, Won 2, Drew 1 and Lost 1, the term was augmented by a series of friendly fixtures, including a 0-0 draw with eventual Cup winners Moyola Park.

After defeats to Ayr, Knock and Avoniel, the Reds got the better of near neighbours Oldpark ahead of consecutive stalemates with Moyola and Queens Park.

A 7-0 victory over RBAI generated vital momentum ahead of the Club’s first ever competitive match, when goals from Hannay and Davidson earned a 2-0 win against Oldpark in the first round of the Irish Cup.

The good form continued with friendly wins over Distillery and Avoniel before the Semi Final of the Cup saw Cliftonville require two attempts to see off Knock; winning 2-1 thanks to McKinnon and Martin after the original tie had finished 2-2.

Another date with Distillery followed only for Scottish visitors Lenzie to inflict Cliftonville’s first loss in four months – the Glasgow side triumphing by five unanswered strikes – just two days before that Cup decider with Moyola when, despite the Reds enjoying home advantage, the Castledawson outfit lifted the trophy thanks to a 1-0 win in what was the first of consecutive Final losses the Club suffered in the competition’s opening two years.

November 6, 1880
Friendly: Cliftonville 1-4 Ayr (Potts)

November 27, 1880
Friendly: Knock 2-0 Cliftonville

December 4, 1880
Friendly: Avoniel 2-0 Cliftonville

December 11, 1880
Friendly: Cliftonville 2-0 Oldpark (Buckle 2)

December 27, 1880
Friendly: Moyola Park 0-0 Cliftonville

January 1, 1881
Friendly: Cliftonville 3-3 Queens Park (McAlery, Buckle 2)

January 29, 1881
Friendly: Cliftonville 7-0 RBAI (McCracken 2, Beyer 2, Jackson 2, Potts)

February 5, 1881:
Irish Cup First Round: Oldpark 0-2 Cliftonville (Hannay, Davison)

February 26, 1881
Friendly: Cliftonville 3-0 Distillery (Buckle 2, Robertson)

March 5, 1881
Friendly: Cliftonville 4-1 Avoniel (Ballantine, Potts, Williams, Hannay)

March 12, 1881
Irish Cup Semi Final: Knock 2-2 Cliftonville (Beyer, Martin)

March 26, 1881
Irish Cup Semi Final Replay: Knock 1-2 Cliftonville (McKinnon, Martin)

April 2, 1881
Friendly: Cliftonville v Distillery

April 7, 1881
Friendly: Cliftonville 0-5 Lenzie

April 9, 1881
Irish Cup Final: Cliftonville 0-1 Moyola Park