Larne’s Euro-vision ahead of crunch play-off tie

Larne FC are preparing for what is arguably the biggest game in their 132-year history with a place in the qualifying stages of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League at stake if they can defeat Cliftonville tomorrow (Saturday).

Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:25 pm

The teams will line out at Inver Park at 5.30pm in the European play-off final with the winner set to earn a minimum of £215,000 in prize money.

The east Antrim side, who finished fourth in the league, are hoping to secure the Danske Bank Irish Premiership’s final berth in the European competition against the Solitude side who finished four points behind them in fith place.

Larne won their European semi-final play-off tie 2-1 against Glenavon with a late winner from Marty Donnelly while Cliftonville overcame their north Belfast derby rivals Crusaders during a controversial penalty shootout after the tie had finished 0-0 after 90 minutes of normal time and 30 minutes of extra time.

Marty Donnelly celebrates scoring the winner against Glenavon on June 1. Photo Desmond  Loughery/Pacemaker Press
Marty Donnelly celebrates scoring the winner against Glenavon on June 1. Photo Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press

Larne, who have never competed in Europe, won this season’s Co Antrim Shield and were the runners up in the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup.

Ahead of tomorrow’s ‘winner takes all’ clash, Larne Chairman Gareth Clements is hoping history can be made.

In a statement issued to the Times, Mr Clements, said: “The players, staff and management have worked incredibly hard all season to put themselves into the position where we have a chance to claim the remaining European spot.

“We haven’t made any secret that this is one of our key targets as a club and we know it would be an historic feat if we can achieve it, as it has never been done in our 132-year history.

“This year has brought many highlights, including our first senior trophy in 33 years, and first Irish Cup final appearance in 16 years. The Co Antrim Shield was a bittersweet moment for us however, as it was played behind closed doors, without our fans.

“Saturday is an opportunity for us to play in front of a limited number of our fans and we would dearly love to achieve it for them - their support has been superb, either inside the ground or from home.

“As our manager, Tiernan Lynch, often says, they are our 12th man and I’d really call on them to be loud and proud come Saturday at 5.30pm.

“We’re fully aware that we face a really difficult test against a very good Cliftonville side, but we will be giving it everything we have as a club.”

The match will be streamed live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.

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Click here to read Marty Donnelly’s magic moment wins it for Larne

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