David Walsh (GK) (Chris Johns 90’), Daniel Finlayson, Michael Newberry, Sam Roscoe, Matthew Clarke, Chris Shields, Jamie Mulgrew (C), Kyle McClean, Joel Cooper (Chris McKee 77’), Andrew Clarke, Eetu Vertainen (Conor Pepper 45’)
Rohan Ferguson (GK), Tomas Cosgrove ©, Cian Bolger, Aaron Donnelly, Michael Glynn, Shea Gordon (Thomas Maguire 70’), Joe Thomson (Mark Randall 64’), Fuad Sule (Jeff Hughes 87’)
Linfield suffered penalty disappointment as the Blues were beaten by Larne in a penalty shoot-out in tonight’s County Antrim Shield final at a sold-out Seaview.
A sending off for Linfield midfielder Kyle McClean after half-an-hour was a significant moment in the match, but David Healy will be proud of the application and mentality of his team, epitomised by the incredibly brave David Walsh who took a nasty blow to the head in injury time when making a committed challenge.
McClean’s dismissal shaped the match and it was a controversial decision. The midfielder fouled Larne’s Leroy Millar in front of the dugout area with a tackle which downed his opponent, and Linfield’s players and staff appeared to have felt aggrieved by the decision to award a straight red card. The referee’s chats with the fourth official and linesman on that side would indicate that it wasn’t the referee’s call. Tempers flared in the aftermath and subsequently, yellow cards were brandished to Linfield’s Chris Shields and Larne’s Cian Bolger.
The controversy didn’t end there as referee Shane Andrews went to his pocket again three minutes later, this time showing a straight red card to Linfield’s Assistant Manager, Ross Oliver.
It was a half of few chances as it had been cagey up until the sending off, and then after that Linfield changed their approach a little to ensure they were as compact as possible with ten men.
The closest either side came to an opener in the first half was four minutes before the break when Larne’s Leroy Millar met Michael Glynn’s corner, only to see his header from ten yards strike the crossbar.
Larne midfielder Millar went close on an earlier occasion when Lee Bonis had dragged a 20-yard volley slightly wide and the midfielder got a head on the end of it, but he turned it the wrong side of the post from a decent position.
Half Time: Larne 0 – 0 Linfield
Blues boss David Healy made a change at the break, bringing on Conor Pepper on the right of midfield, whilst moving Joel Cooper up front and sacrificing Eetu Vertainen. It worked, as Linfield started the half strongly and looked more of a threat. Within the opening five or so minutes of the second half, they forced four corners but the ball wouldn’t drop kindly.
Then came a third red card for Linfield, this time for Manager, David Healy who was adjudged to have stepped onto the pitch momentarily when he was retrieving the ball which was a few yards in front of him, to return it down the line to his left where a free-kick was to be taken from.
Larne’s opportunities in front of goal came towards the end of the ninety minutes, firstly when David Walsh produced an excellent save to deny Michael Glynn who was picked out at the back post area when he struck a powerful strike which was deflected by Conor Pepper and brilliantly pushed around the post by the young goalkeeper.
Paul O’Neill had the best chance when substitute Thomas Maguire showed pace to dart to the byline and whip in a pinpoint cross for the striker who was disappointed not to score as he headed over from close range.
The final opportunity fell for defender Cian Bolger who met Michael Glynn’s corner delivery on the volley and Michael Newberry got a touch on it to take a bit of sting out of the shot, but it still required good reactions from David Walsh once again as he pounced on the ball.
Unfortunately, David Walsh suffered a nasty injury in the 90th minute. The goalkeeper raced out with full commitment, commendably to win a 50-50 challenge. However, he took a blow to the head in the process of the challenge from Larne’s Thomas Maguire. After play was eventually stopped for a Linfield free-kick high up the pitch, prolonged treatment followed - with thanks to the Larne medical staff for their efforts alongside Linfield’s staff - before the referee ordered both teams to the dressing rooms. It was then agreed by both Clubs to forget the allocated four additional minutes that were still to be played and instead go straight to a penalty shoot-out.
Full Time: Larne 0 – 0 Linfield
The penalty shoot-out took place at the Linfield end of the ground. It started well for Linfield, with Chris Johns saving from Leroy Millar after coming on as Walsh’s replacement. However, Michael Newberry hit the crossbar and Andrew Clarke was denied, with Larne converting their other four spotkicks to win the Shield for the third year in a row.
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: David Walsh