Tomorrow’s Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup semi-final clash with Crusaders represents Cliftonville’s 49th outing at this juncture of the competition.
The Reds infamously lost the first two Irish Cup Finals in 1881 and 1882 before eventually getting their hands on the silverware courtesy of a 5-0 thrashing of Ulster at the Bloomfield Ground, Knock in 1883 and, while details of the tournament’s deciders are easily accessible online, the full list of semi-finals are rather more difficult to come by.
That’s where Cliftonville’s Heritage Development Officer Paul Treanor comes in.
His records note that, while the Reds have contested 52 Irish Cup semi-finals to date, four of those matches were subsequently protested with the results scratched, meaning the forthcoming battle with the Crues is – officially at least – only the Club’s 49th such outing, inclusive of 11 replays.
With 20 wins and 11 draws to their name, Cliftonville have scored 91 Irish Cup last-four goals, compared to 62 conceded, with our biggest win being a 10-1 thumping of Ulster in 1883, while a 4-0 reverse at the hands of Linfield in 1939 stands out as the heaviest defeat.
The competition’s maiden Reds-Crues semi-final was also the Clubs’ first ever Irish Cup meeting; a 4-2 Cliftonville victory at The Oval on February 5, 1927 – only for a 3-2 defeat to Ards at the same venue to deny the team some Final day glory the following month.
Tomorrow’s match is just the third Irish Cup semi-final joust between the sides with Cliftonville having won the most recent encounter – also at The Oval – on April 5, 2013.
Indeed, The Oval has staged more of the Reds’ Irish Cup last-four ties than any other venue, with a total of 12 such fixtures played at the east Belfast ground. Windsor Park will tomorrow join Grosvenor Park on nine, ahead of Ballynafeigh (6), Solitude (3), Dalymount Park (3), Avoniel (2) and five other locations – Ulsterville, Celtic Park, Ballymena Showgrounds, Balmoral and Bloomfield – with one each.
As well as being just the 10th Irish Cup clash between the Reds and Crusaders, tomorrow’s match is also the 11th time the North Belfast Derby rivals have locked horns in a semi-final of any sort.
The League Cup and County Antrim Shield have each thrown the sides together in three semi-final showdowns, with the Ulster Cup and European Play-Offs staging one tie apiece in addition to the aforementioned pair of Irish Cup battles.
Of those previous 10 semi-final match-ups, meanwhile, it almost goes without saying that The Oval (6) has hosted the majority, with Windsor staging three alongside Solitude and Seaview holding one match each.
Irish Cup North Belfast Derbies
P9 W5 D1 L3 F17 A11
North Belfast Derby semi-finals
P2 W2 D0 L0 F6 A2
P3 W3 D0 L0 F4 A1
County Antrim Shield
P3 W1 D0 L2 F4 A5
P1 W0 D0 L1 F0 A4
P1 W0 D1 L0 F0 A0
P10 W6 D1 L3 F14 A12
Cliftonville in Irish Cup semi-finals
P48 W20 D11 L17 F91 A62
Cliftonville’s Irish Cup semi-finals of the last 25 years
1997: Cliftonville 3-1 Loughgall (Windsor Park)
1999: Cliftonville 1-1 Linfield (Windsor Park)
1999 replay: Cliftonville 1-0 Linfield (Windsor Park)
2007: Cliftonville 0-0 Dungannon Swifts [4-5 on penalties] (The Oval)
2008: Cliftonville 1-2 Linfield (The Oval)
2009: Cliftonville 0-0 Linfield (The Oval)
2009 replay: Cliftonville 3-2 Linfield (The Oval)
2013: Cliftonville 2-0 Crusaders (The Oval)
2018: Cliftonville 4-2 Loughgall (The Oval)
2020: Cliftonville 1-1 Glentoran [6-7 on penalties] (Windsor Park)