Irish Premiership: Five things we noticed from a busy Boxing Day

Elvio van Overbeek celebrates scoring Glentoran's opener against Linfield
Elvio van Overbeek celebrates scoring Glentoran's opener against Linfield

It was a Boxing Day of wildly contrasting emotions as an already absorbing Irish Premiership title race reached a festive crescendo.

Cliftonville claimed north Belfast derby bragging rights over while Glentoran humbled champions Linfield at The Oval.

It's a tight turnaround with another six games on Saturday, but before we turn our attention to that, let's first unpack an enthralling Derby Day.

Glentoran underline title credentials in emphatic fashion

Glentoran claim Boxing Day bragging rights over Blues

Glentoran have entered the chat. Title chat, that is.

As Boxing Day fell into darkness, Glentoran fans toasted a famous victory over their closest rivals.

Elvio van Overbeek's back-heeled finish shook Linfield, Hrvoje Plum's double finished them. It was Glentoran's biggest league victory over the Blues since 1996.

More importantly, it sees the Glens leapfrog Crusaders into fourth place. They're now just three points off the top. It's been a difficult decade for Glentoran, but they're certainly ending it on a high.

In his post-match interview Glentoran boss Mick McDermott said he wants opposing teams to fear coming to The Oval. After that showing, the Blues won't relish their next trip there.

McGonigle 'wasted on the left'

McMenamin double as Reds sink Crues

There can be no debate over the impact Jamie McGonigle has had since joining Crusaders from Coleraine in the summer.

With eight league goals, he has consistently delivered for his new side but his first experience of a Boxing Day north Belfast derby was a miserable one.

In a surprise move, Crues boss Stephen Baxter deployed McGonigle on the left against Cliftonville, with Paul Heatley dropping to the bench.

After a frustrating and ineffective 57 minutes, McGonigle made way for Heatley who, as a natural wide man, made more of an impact without influencing the final result as the Reds clinched their first Boxing Day victory at Seaview in 10 years.

McGonigle may well start against Dungannon on Saturday, but it would be a huge surprise to see him on the left flank once more.

Larne and 0-0 draws

Here's an interesting stat - the last Irish Premiership 0-0 draw not involving Larne was way back on 24 August (Coleraine v Institute).

It was another disappointing stalemate for the Invermen as they were held by Carrick Rangers in the east Antrim derby.

Larne boss Tiernan Lynch said his side were simply 'not good enough' after another frustrating 90 minutes on their own patch.

In fact, it was the fifth home draw in a row for Larne. They're still comfortably inside the top six but, simply put, for a side of their talent, their home form needs to dramatically improve if they're to make the top five look nervously over their shoulders.

Next up for Larne is Cliftonville at home on Saturday. If they're to rediscover their home form, they'll have to do it against the side currently occupying top spot.

Dynamic duo keeping Mitchell and Murray on the bench

Glenavon defeat Swifts at Mourneview

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Glenavon's ruthless 5-0 dismantling of Dungannon was the two players causing all the problems up front.

Conor McCloskey and Jordan Jenkins ran the Swifts ragged all afternoon, scoring three of their side's goals with both bagging themselves an assist on a hugely productive afternoon at Mourneview Park.

Jenkins is 19 and McCloskey isn't even a natural centre forward yet they're keeping Andrew Mitchell and Stephen Murray, two of the division's deadliest marksmen, on the bench.

It's been a rough season at times for Glenavon and Gary Hamilton has had to search for inspiration. As it turns out, it's come in the form of his unlikely strike partnership.

Reports of Coleraine's demise may be greatly exaggerated

Coleraine beat Ballymena United 2-0 to grab Boxing day bragging rights

Coleraine's ambitions of challenging for the league title appeared to be stuttering badly as they went four Premiership games without a win - but their 2-0 triumph over derby rivals Ballymena may be just the tonic they need to give them some momentum and get their season back on track.

A series of missed chances played a part in their 1-0 defeat by Cliftonville on Saturday - but more clinical finishing was in evidence at Ballycastle Road on Boxing Day as Josh Carson and Jamie Glackin saw them see off the Sky Blues and move up to third place in the table, one point off the top.

The return of in-form defender Aaron Canning gave Oran Kearney's side a boost ahead of the busy festive schedule and he played an influential role against a Ballymena side bereft of the prolific Cathair Friel, while goalkeeper Chris Johns also played a significant part.

A second win in seven then for the Bannsiders, whose championship credentials will be further tested when they host a Linfield side stung by their derby reverse at the hands of Glentoran this weekend.

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