Ballymena United finish runners-up in Irish Premiership

Ballymena United beat Glenavon 4-3
Ballymena's win put them eight points ahead of third-placed Glenavon with just one match left

Ballymena United made sure of finishing second in the Irish Premiership by beating third-placed Glenavon 4-3 in a thrilling match on Tuesday night.

It is the club's highest top-flight finish since they were runners-up in the 1979/80 campaign and they will play in next season's Europa League.

Meanwhile, Newry City are staring relegation in the face after losing 2-1 away to Institute.

City will go into the final day three points behind one-from-bottom Ards.

Linfield, already crowned champions, hammered Cliftonville 5-1 while Coleraine beat Crusaders 4-2 and Glentoran were held to a 2-2 draw by Warrenpoint at the Oval.

Ards beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 and are likely to be involved in the end-of-season promotion-relegation play-off.

Relive the drama from Tuesday's Irish Premiership matches

Johnny McMurray of Ballymena and Glenavon's James Singleton
Ballymena beat Glenavon in a competitive seven-goal thriller at the Showgrounds

At Ballymena, the home side were gifted an early lead when Caolan Marron's back-pass fell short of Jonny Tuffey and Johnny McMurray raced clear before unselfishly squaring for Andy McGrory to score in an unguarded net.

Glenavon responded when defender Seamus Sharkey headed home from a corner but Ballymena regained the lead when McMurray lashed home after McGrory had been denied initially by Tuffey.

Ballymena looked to be cruising to victory after the break when Adam Lecky rolled home a low shot at the end of an intricate team move but, almost straight away, James Singleton hooked home after a Glenavon corner wasn't cleared.

Andrew Mitchell had Ballymena nerves jangling when he made it 3-3 with four minutes left but substitute Shane McGinty blasted home a shot with virtually his first touch to ensure European football for United next season.

A Jordan Stewart-inspired Linfield outclassed Belfast rivals Cliftonville to win 5-1 at Windsor Park.

Michael O'Connor scored two of Linfield's goals against Cliftonville
Michael O'Connor scored two of Linfield's goals against Cliftonville

In the 11th minute, the 24-year-old left the Reds defenders in his wake before finding Michael O'Connor at the back post. The striker's header back into the danger area reached an onrushing Daniel Kearns, who smashed home from six yards.

Former Glentoran youngster Stewart then teed up O'Connor for the champions' second and the striker doubled his tally just two minutes later, beating Levi Ives to fire beyond Brian Neeson once more.

Stewart, virtually unplayable at times, was the architect of the fourth, too. He brushed Jamie McGovern off the ball and jinked around in the box, eventually smashing a left-footed effort high into the net. Cliftonville felt the goal should not have stood due to Kearns standing in an offside position.

Conor McMenamin pulled a goal back for the Reds but Kirk Millar, found with a defence-splitting Stewart through ball, capped a five-star display for the newly-crowned champions with a deft finish.

Irish Cup finalists Crusaders lost 4-2 away to Coleraine
Irish Cup finalists Crusaders lost 4-2 away to Coleraine

Jamie McGonigle netted three goals as Coleraine, sixth in the table, earned a 4-2 win over Crusaders who had beaten them in the Irish Cup semi-finals.

Jamie Glackin got the other for the Bannsiders while the Crues scored through Michael Ruddy and a David Cushley penalty.

Michael McLellan's early goal proved enough to give Warren Feeney's Ards a vital home win over Dungannon.

It means Newry are odds-on to fill the one automatic relegation place after Saturday's final round of fixtures.

Darren Murray's 84th-minute equaliser denied Warrenpoint victory at the Oval
Darren Murray's 84th-minute equaliser denied Warrenpoint victory at the Oval

Newry lost 2-1 at Institute to sit three points behind Ards, who have a better goal difference by four.

Goals by Callum Moorehead and Ronan Doherty got new 'Stute boss John Quigg off to a winning start while Tiarnan Rushe was Newry's scorer.

Darren Murray scored a late goal to give Glentoran a 2-2 draw against Warrenpoint.

Simon Kelly had put the visitors ahead, with John Herron equalising before a Philip Donnelly penalty restored Town's lead.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Ballymena United4-3Glenavon
Glentoran2-2Warrenpoint Town
Ards1-0Dungannon Swifts
Institute2-1Newry City

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