Europa League play-off final: Cliftonville 3-2 Glentoran

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Cliftonville in Europe after 3-2 win over Glentoran

Two goals by Rory Donnelly and a late Joe Gormley strike earned Cliftonville an exciting 3-2 win over Glentoran in Saturday's play-off for a lucrative place in next season's Europa League.

Donnelly scored the opener with a goal Glentoran protested should have been disallowed for hand ball.

The same player made it 2-0 but the Glens replied through Robbie McDaid and a Curtis Allen penalty.

Gormley's goal then sealed the European place worth at least 240,000 euro.

Relive all the drama from the play-off at Solitude

Glentoran, seventh in the Irish Premiership campaign, were left to contemplate a third successive season without European football.

And Oval officials will now focus on appointing a permanent manager to replace Ronnie McFall who has been interim manager since the February dismissal of Gary Haveron.

Cliftonville took the lead in the 22nd minute with the Donnelly goal Glentoran were adamant should have been disallowed.

The ball certainly struck the former Gillingham striker's hand before he fired a low shot into the net, but referee Keith Kennedy deemed it had not been a deliberate hand ball and allowed it to stand.

As Cliftonville players celebrated in front of the stand housing Glentoran supporters, a bottle was thrown which appeared to glance off at least one Reds player.

Fortunately, no-one seemed to be seriously injured but there may well be disciplinary implications when Irish FA looks at the incident.

Cliftonville celebrated a Uefa windfall worth more than £200,000
Cliftonville celebrated a Uefa windfall worth more than £200,000

The other big decision in the first half went against Cliftonville as offside was given when Joe Gormley thought he had given the Reds a 2-0 lead.

Glentoran, who beat traditional Belfast rivals Linfield 4-3 to make the play-off final, failed to sparkle and created little danger.

But they were well in the game until Barry Gray's men doubled their lead with a score on the counterattack.

Gormley played the ball in from the left and Donnelly got it over the line at the second attempt.

There seemed little hope for Glentoran as the two-goal gap remained and the minutes drifted past.

But they got back into the game when McDaid drilled in from in front of goal in the 79th minute.

Then more drama as Glentoran equalised less than four minutes later.

Last defender Garry Breen barged McDaid off the ball when the Glens player was in on goal.

Breen got off with a yellow card but Allen tucked away the spot-kick to make it 2-2.

Cliftonville did not wilt, though, and when a chance fell to Gormley in front of the home stand he shot in for the big-money winner.

Cliftonville player Jay Donnelly and manager Barry Gray
Barry Gray guided Cliftonville to Europa League qualification in his first season as manager of Cliftonville

What they said

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray: "We are delighted to get the win and should focus on the character of the players who came back.

"We were on top in large patches but then gifted them two goals.

"We have met one of our objectives which was to achieve European football."

Glentoran assistant manager Kieran Harding: "The referee has played a big part in how this game's gone.

"The first goal is a clear handball and when we scored our second goal arguably their centre-back should be sent off for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity."

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