Irish Premiership: Linfield clinch title by beating Cliftonville

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Linfield beat Cliftonville 3-1 to clinch league title

Andrew Waterworth scored a second-half hat-trick as Linfield beat Cliftonville to clinch the title on a dramatic final day of the Irish Premiership season.

The 3-1 win at Solitude means David Healy's Blues finish the campaign two points ahead of Crusaders who had held the title for the last two years.

Crusaders ended their title challenge with a 6-1 win over Glenavon at Seaview but in the end it was not enough.

It is Linfield's first title triumph since they did the double in 2012.

They are one match away from another double as they face Coleraine in the Irish Cup final on 6 May.

Linfield may have lifted the County Antrim Shield in February, but this will go down as a first major managerial success for Northern Ireland record scorer David Healy.

He took over as Linfield manager in October 2015 and saw his team end the season runners-up in the league and beaten by Glenavon in the cup final.

Former Northern Ireland striker David Healy won the title in his first full season as Linfield manager
Former Northern Ireland striker David Healy won the title in his first full season as Linfield manager

Clinching the title in his first full season seemed unlikely in mid-February when Crusaders were nine points ahead.

But Linfield went on an amazing run picking up 40 points from a possible 42, to take advantage of Crusaders' slip-ups.

Linfield were trailing at half-time after Daniel Hughes headed Cliftonville into a 13th-minute lead but Linfield bounced back in style after the break.

Waterworth pounced for a close-range equaliser and followed that with a brilliant individual strike which turned out to be the title clincher.

The former Glentoran striker made it 3-1 on the hour with a penalty after he was fouled by Chris Ramsey who was sent-off.

With Cliftonville losing, Ballymena's draw against Coleraine lifted them into fourth place, meaning they will have home advantage against Dungannon in the semi-finals of the Europa League play-offs.

Cliftonville will host Glenavon in the other semi-final, with the matches being played on Monday, 8 May.

Carrick are seeking a new manager as they prepare for the promotion/relegation play-off games after Aaron Callaghan quit minutes after their 4-1 defeat away to Ballinamallard United.

Linfield took 43 points from their last 15 matches to beat Crusaders to the title
Linfield took 43 points from their last 15 matches to beat Crusaders to the title
Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Ballinamallard Utd4-1Carrick Rangers
Cliftonville1-3Linfield
Coleraine1-1Ballymena Utd
Crusaders6-1Glenavon
Dungannon Swifts2-0Portadown
Glentoran1-1Ards

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