Dundalk 2-1 Cliftonville

Stephen Garrett of Cliftonville battles for the ball against Daniel Kearns of Dundalk
Stephen Garrett of Cliftonville tackles Daniel Kearns of Dundalk

Cliftonville bowed out of the Setanta Cup 5-2 on aggregate when they lost away to Dundalk on Monday night.

Dundalk, having won the first leg of the semi-final 3-1 in Belfast, were always favourites to reach the final and will face Shamrock Rovers or Sligo.

Cliftonville were given hope when Kieran O'Connor headed them into the lead in the 59th minute.

Jason Byrne's header from Ross Gaynor's cross levelled matters and Johnny Breen netted a stoppage-time winner.

So Cliftonville took their leave having got through two rounds of the cross-border competition at the expense of St Patrick's Athletic and Crusaders.

They were under the cosh in the early stages of the second leg as Dundalk had all the early chances.

The best effort came in the 11th minute when Byrne's right-foot shot swerved just wide of the far post.

Cliftonville gradually began to make some headway and created a great chance on the half hour only for Conal Burns to head wastefully wide from Stephen Garrett's cross.

Dundalk almost scored in the first minute of the second half when big defender Michael Hector, on loan from Reading, saw his header strike the visitors' crossbar.

However, the breakthrough came at the other end in the 59th minute when a high ball in from the right was met by O'Connor who headed Cliftonville into the lead on the night.

It was O'Connor's fourth goal of the season, three of them coming in the All-Ireland competition

Cliftonville were now 3-2 down on aggregate but needed to score two more because of Dundalk's three away goals from the first leg in Belfast.

Their hopes of pulling off a shock revival, and reaching the final, lasted just eight minutes as Dundalk equalised to restore their overall two-goal advantage.

Gaynor delivered a teasing cross from the left and Byrne beat defender Peter Hutton to head past keeper Jack Duffin.

It was Byrne who provided the pass for 20-year-old Breen to go on to beat keeper Jack Duffin for the second-leg winner.

To make matters worse for the Irish League side, their veteran defender Peter Hutton was carried off injured late in the game.

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