Irish Cup: Clinical Linfield beat Glentoran to reach final

Linfield are through to the Irish Cup final following a 3-1 victory against Glentoran at The Oval.

Joel Cooper opened the scoring before two fine finishes from Kyle McClean helped the clinical Blues progress to the decider for the first time since 2021.

Substitute Junior had pulled a goal back for Glentoran.

Linfield will face the winner of the second semi-final between Cliftonville and Larne, who play on Saturday.

The final will take place at Windsor Park on 4 May.

Linfield had won three out of four meetings in all competitions this season coming into this semi-final, but the solitary Glens win came at The Oval, when they beat the Blues 4-0 in December.

Like that game, it was a frantic opening to the semi-final in front of a large crowd with some early crunching tackles from both sets of players adding a real derby feel to the game.

The Glens' first sight on goal arrived on four minutes, with Daire O'Connor wriggling past Matthew Clare and fizzing in a low cross which none of the three Glentoran players in the box could get on the end of.

It was a similar story at the other end four minutes later, as a poor goal-kick from Aaron McCarey landed at Joel Cooper's feet and he drove forward before picking out Joshua Archer, whose delivery evaded everyone.

Matthew Fitzpatrick then glanced wide from Kirk Millar's near post corner as the chances continued to flow at either end.

Glentoran had a great opportunity to open the scoring on 25 minutes, as Shay McCartan whipped in a free-kick which Aidan Wilson nodded down to James Singleton, who from only a couple of yards out, headed wide of the far post.

The home side would be left to rue that miss when Cooper opened the scoring for the Blues on 33 minutes.

McClean's deep cross was only cleared by Singleton as far as Cooper inside the area, who fired home a low shot past McCarey.

The goal seemed to invigorate Linfield, who took control of the contest from that moment on.

They had a golden opportunity to double their advantage as another cross from the left from McClean found Fitzpatrick, who headed over the crossbar from close range.

Magic McClean

David Healy's side started the second half as they ended the first and managed to double their advantage through the impressive McClean on 52 minutes.

A deep free-kick from Kirk Millar found Daniel Finlayson, who headed the ball across the face of goal, with Bobby Burns' half clearance falling to the onrushing McClean.

He made no mistake with his first time finish, smashing the ball into the bottom corner.

Two clear cut chances and two goals for a ruthless Linfield, who were then content to sit back and absorb pressure from Glentoran.

Shay McCartan went close to reducing the deficit for the hosts as his curling effort from 25-yards bounced off the post on 72 minutes.

The game exploded back into life when substitute Junior pulled one back for Declan Devine's side with eight minutes remaining, instinctively flicking the ball past Chris Johns from Paddy McClean's cross.

But the Glens hope lasted just two minutes, with McClean unleashing another venomous effort from the edge of the area, which flew into the top corner to re-establish Linfield's two goal advantage.

Linfield saw out the win as they continue their pursuit of a domestic treble, whilst for Glentoran, it is now a fourth season without silverware since their Irish Cup win in 2020.