Irish Cup Final: Coleraine 3-1 Cliftonville

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Watch: Coleraine triumph 3-1 over Cliftonville in Irish Cup final

Coleraine secured a sixth Irish Cup success and a first since 2003 by beating Cliftonville 3-1 in a pulsating final at Windsor Park.

Darren McCauley's stunning 50th-minute piledriver gave Coleraine the lead but Rory Donnelly equalised from close range four minutes later.

Sub Aaron Burns restored Coleraine's lead on 77 and Eoin Bradley fired home his side's third in stoppage-time.

The victory represents a first trophy success for manager Oran Kearney.

Last week, the Bannsiders were pipped by Crusaders for the Irish Premiership title after a season-long battle with Stephen Baxter's side.

Aaron Burns celebrates after restoring Coleraine's lead
Aaron Burns restored Coleraine's lead in the 77th minute before Eoin Bradley's late clincher

Game explodes to life after tense first half

The first half at the National Stadium was a tense affair with Cliftonville enjoying the majority of the possession but Coleraine fashioning the better goalscoring opportunities.

Jamie McGonigle headed wide from just a few yards out after the impressive Ian Parkhill, a replacement for the injured Stephen Dooley, had provided the inviting right-wing cross. McCauley was just unable to get his head to another Parkhill delivery from the right wing.

McCauley got the second half off to a thrilling start by firing home right-footed from the edge of the box past Brian Neeson for his 20th goal of the season.

Donnelly slotted home the leveller after meeting Conor McDonald's low cross from the left but Burns's composed finish after the ball had travelled through a static Cliftonville defence restored Coleraine's lead.

As the Reds pushed for an equaliser, Bradley ran clear and dinked the third over Neeson to spark scenes of ecstatic celebrations among the Bannsiders' players, supporters and coaching staff.

Coleraine defender Gareth McConaghie celebrated his 30th birthday by collecting the man of the match award.

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Actor Jimmy Nesbitt joins Coleraine's cup-winning celebrations

Coleraine beaten in last year's cup final

Coleraine had lost 3-0 to Linfield in last year's final and were denied a first league title since 1974 this season despite losing just one of their 38 Premiership games.

The Ballycastle Road club had tasted defeat in their previous two Irish Cup finals in 2004 and 2008 and also came out second best in League Cup deciders in 2010 and 2012.

Manager Oran Kearney has been at the helm since February 2011 and the club has kept faith with the former Ballymena United and Linfield player during a number of winless periods.

Kearney has subsequently masterminded a revival in the club's fortunes over the last 16 months - just four defeats in 62 league and Irish Cup games telling their own story - but the one thing missing until this triumph was some silverware.

Coleraine, who had already qualified for the Europa League by virtue of their second-place top-flight finish, extended their run of unbeaten games in all competitions to 28 with this win.

Rory Donnelly after hammering in Cliftonville's equaliser from close range
Rory Donnelly equalised for Cliftonville five minutes after Darren McCauley had put the Bannsiders ahead

Reds must regroup for Europa League play-offs

While Coleraine's campaign has been a model of consistency, Cliftonville's season has been something of a rollercoaster, with patches of good results interspersed with dips in form.

The north Belfast club went into this first-ever Irish Cup meeting with Coleraine hoping to end a 39-year wait since they last got their hands on the Irish Cup but it was not to be.

The Reds fail to add to their eight previous victories in the competition and have now lost their last four Irish Cup finals, having also lost out in 1997, 2009 and 2013.

Manager Barry Gray, in his first year in charge, was ultimately unable to deliver the men from Solitude a first trophy success since February 2016, having also failed to get the better of Kearney's charges in four league encounters between the clubs this season.

Having finished fifth in the league, Cliftonville now face a home Europa League play-off semi-final against Ballymena United on Wednesday night, eager to secure the financial rewards that could accrue from European qualification.

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Oran Kearney says Coleraine's Irish Cup win made it a successful season

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