Ian Callender
Cliftonville reach a Final - at last!

Ian Callender, 24 August 2001


Cliftonville players no longer have to rely on their grandfathers' memories. After 79 years, the class of 2001 proved that Cliftonville can win semi finals. They will meet North County in the Royal Liver Irish Cup final at The Lawn next Friday after yesterday's 36 runs success against Brigade.

The scenes at the end of yesterday's game will hardly be matched for euphoria no matter who wins the cup - relief as much as delight ecstatically evident as bodies piled on top off bodies when Brian Anderson wrecked Graeme Moore's stumps to claim victory more than four overs early. Only Johnny Terrett remembered the opposition in Cliftonville's moment of triumph but, after so many near misses, who can blame them.

The semi final entertainment may have been left behind in Dublin with yesterday's clash a much more sub-standard affair - North County scored more runs on Thursday than the Cliftonville and Brigade totals put together - but on the day that suited Cliftonville down to the ground, a damp one and a slow pitch.

Without their two best batsmen, Grant Elliott and Gerard Brophy, Kyle McCallan backed his bowlers to do the business against a North West side never as comfortable away from home, and so it proved. Cliftonville's 148 was a workmanlike slog and Andrew Patterson's three boundaries was more than the whole Brigade side could muster.

Only Alan Rutherford, with more experience of the ground than the rest of his team-mates put together was the only Brigade player who hit fours and his innings of 35 was almost a third of the total. It was not fast - he was at the wicket for 36 overs - but while he was there he was doing a perfect job as long as runs were coming at the other end.

With Gordon Cooke back at the wicket after retiring hurt, on two, in the 13th over, there was still no cause to panic despite the run rate edging above five for the first time. But Rutherford's first airbound shot, a mistimed pull, proved to be his last and when Cooke gave Davy Menaul his third catch of the innings three overs later, Cliftonville were finally within sight of utopia.

Brigade's attempt to hit out at young David Munn floundered and the slow bowler ended up with four wickets in his seven overs, four more than his captain who, for the second successive match rendered the batsmen strokeless. In the abandoned game against Woodvale on Sunday he had bowled nine maidens in his 10 overs, yesterday he had six more and added to the game's top score of 41 he was former ICU president Roy Torrens's choice as man of the match.

Brigade will look back on a bad start to the day when Patterson was dropped in the gully on one and McCallan was caught off a no ball - put bluntly it probably cost them victory - and ended North West's proud record in the competition. It will be the first time since 1991 that the area is not represented in the Irish Cup final.

Ten years, however, is only yesterday as far as Cliftonville are concerned. They have a lot of catching up to do and at least they have an unbeaten record in cup finals stretching back to 1922.