Ballymena United 0
Crusaders 4
Irish Cup (Final)


Ballymena United
0 - 4
Crusaders 

Irish Cup (Final)
Sunday, May 7th, 2023
Windsor Park
Attendance: 9,688
3:00 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
None. Ross Clarke (12)
Adam Lecky (53)
Philip Lowry (65)
Paul Heatley (69)

Team Managers
David Jeffrey
Stephen Baxter

Starting Eleven
1. Jordan Williamson
35. Craig Farquhar
20. Robert McVarnock
4. Douglas Wilson
3. Ross Redman
11. Steven McCullough
5. Scot Whiteside
24. Sean Graham
8. Joshua Kelly
7. David McDaid
10. Ryan Waide
Jonathan Tuffey .33
Robert Weir .6
Philip Lowry .7
Adam Lecky .9
Jordan Forsythe .14
Jarlath O'Rourke .15
Jude Winchester .19
Daniel Larmour .20
Paul Heatley .22
Rory McKeown .23
Ross Clarke .25

Bench
21. Sean O'Neill
17. Andrew McGrory
16. Evan Tweed
25. George Tipton
18. Jordan Gibson
30. Michael Place
12. Kenny Kane
Tom Murphy .1
Chris Hegarty .3
Ben Kennedy .8
Dean Ebbe .10
Declan Caddell .12
Jordan Owens .18
Gary Thompson .21

Substitutions
Jordan Gibson for Ross Redman (57)
Michael Place for Robert McVarnock (57)
Kenny Kane for Douglas Wilson (76)
Andrew McGrory for Sean Graham (84)
Declan Caddell for Jude Winchester (72)
Jordan Owens for Adam Lecky (82)
Chris Hegarty for Daniel Larmour (86)
Ben Kennedy for Robert Weir (86)
Gary Thompson for Ross Clarke (86)

Cautions
None. None.

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Tim Marshall (Referee)
Stephen Donaldson & Ryan Kelsey (Assistants)
Evan Boyce (Fourth Official)


Match Report


Ballymena United suffered a second straight Samuel Gelston's Irish Whiskey Irish Cup final defeat to Crusaders after being heavily beaten 4-0 at the National Stadium on a bitterly disappointing Sunday afternoon.

There were three changes for United for the season's showpiece event after last Saturday's final league win over Carrick, as Ryan Waide, Robert McVarnock and Sean Graham came in for Jordan Gibson, Andrew McGrory and Michael Place.

After last year's agonising defeat to the same opponents in the cruellest of circumstances at Windsor Park, United would've desperately been hoping to right the wrongs of last year, but they got off to a nervy start in front of a bumper crowd. Less than two minutes in, those nerves showed when Jordan Williamson took his eye off the simplest of headers back to him by Craig Farquhar, with the goalkeeper just about scrambling the ball off the line in time to spare his blushes.

Things weren't looking much better a minute later as Jude Winchester headed wide off a corner when he really should've scored, before the same man raced clear from an Adam Lecky flick on, only for Williamson to make a huge save.

However, from the very next attack Crusaders finally broke the deadlock on twelve minutes, and it was fully deserved. That said, it was an unfortunate one for United as Ross Clarke picked the ball up on the edge of the box and when he wasn't closed down he had a go, but his strike took a wicked deflection off Steven McCullough to take it away from Williamson and in.

Following the goal, play was stopped for a minute as the whole of the National Stadium paid tribute to young Crusaders girls footballer Kaylee Black, who tragically passed away at just 13 this week, after a minute's silence prior to kick off as well.

After falling behind, the Braidmen were finally able to stop the Crusaders onslaught as they just about got half a foot into the game. Twenty-five minutes in United finally created a chance when Ross Redman hung on a high cross into the box, and whilst Joshua Kelly headed well wide, it was at least something.

After a bit of a lull in the capital, Crusaders took over again to end the half strongly. Paul Heatley looked to be in for 2-0 until a perfect last-ditch tackle from Scot Whiteside, before Williamson came for a cross but spilled it into the path of Philip Lowry, but Williamson made amends with a huge save. In the final chance of the half, United's stopper continued to keep Ballymena in it with a strong hand to keep out Jordan Forsythe, before the same man put the follow up wide by inches, but as the half time whistle went, a very out of sorts Ballymena would've been happy to be just the one goal behind.

Now shooting into a Kop end almost full with a sea of sky blue, United started the second half in a slow fashion again, and just eight minutes in Crusaders put one hand on the trophy with a strange second goal. The Shore Road men again bypassed Ballymena's midfield with ease and an overload down the right ended with Lecky finding Jarlath O'Rourke who hit the post. The follow up was poorly cleared and it fell for Adam Lecky, whose mis-hit shot looked to be flying well over the crossbar from where the United fans were sitting, but it instead looped over Williamson and somehow went in.

Given United were yet to show up in truth, creating one sole chance till now, the task facing them couldn't have been harder, and they never looked like making in roads. The lack of quality was laid bare by the fact on fifty-six minutes Johnny Tuffey had to make his only save of the final, but it was a simple hold of Farquhar's header.

With Ballymena needing to do something, Michael Place and Jordan Gibson came on, but after Forsythe almost caught Williamson out with a free kick from way out, the big day went from bad to worse as a hugely disappointing team in sky blue went three down. It felt like Crusaders' numerous set pieces would eventually amount to something, and it did when Philip Lowry rose highest to guide a corner home into the bottom corner.

By this point it looked like the score could be anything with the Hatchetmen now on a procession to the crown, and three minutes after the third there was a fourth as United completely capitulated. Again, Crusaders went down the right and when Ballymena failed to clear Lowry's poor strike, the same man teed up Paul Heatley who curled home a beauty from just outside the box to see Crusaders surge further clear.

The final twenty minutes were somewhat of a non-event, with United's players knowing the game was long up and Crusaders happy to just see things out still in second gear. With five minutes to go substitute Kenneth Kane put a ball across the six-yard box for Gibson who missed it by millimeters in front of what was left of a deflated Ballymena end.

No additional time added on just about summed up the lack of a contest in the second half as the party started for Crusaders for the second year running, but as for United, they simply didn't turn up from minute one to disappoint a fantastic travelling support, as a hugely disappointing season ended in similar fashion with an Irish Cup final performance to forget.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (www.ballymenaunitedfc.com)



Squad Statistics (as at May 7th, 2023)


2022-2023 All Time
Age
Jordan Williamson (GK)27 17 - 86 -
Douglas Wilson29 243434
Scot Whiteside25 43 - 981
Robert McVarnock23 19 - 19 -
Ross Redman33 3721226
Steven McCullough28 39 - 2098
Craig Farquhar19 142142
Sean Graham22 333713
Joshua Kelly24 43613010
Ryan Waide23 36611615
David McDaid32 42114211
Michael Place (sub)25 413606
Andrew McGrory (sub)31 18214125
Jordan Gibson (sub)27 434434
Kenny Kane (sub)23 361988



League Table (as at May 7th, 2023)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 37 25 8 4 83
2. Linfield 37 22 8 7 74
3. Glentoran 36 21 5 10 68
4. Cliftonville 36 20 7 9 67
5. Crusaders 36 19 9 8 66
6. Coleraine 36 17 8 11 59
7. Glenavon 36 13 9 14 48
8. Carrick 36 12 4 20 40
9. BALLYMENA 36 10 5 21 35
10. Newry 36 9 2 25 29
11. Dungannon 36 7 3 26 24
12. Portadown 36 6 4 26 22