NIFL Championship

The play-offs continued in the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) over the weekend as firstly we had the first leg of the Bluefin Sport Championship promotion/relegation play-off on Friday evening, while on Saturday Solitude hosted the final of the Europa League play-offs.

Queens University 0 Dergview 1 (Promotion/Relegation Play-Off First Leg)

Perhaps unusually for these sorts of play-offs, both sides went into this game on a relatively good run of form, Queens had just won the Intermediate Cup with a convincing win over Dundela on Tuesday night and had one 17 out of 27 league games, and in spite of their league position Dergview have improved considerably since Peter Allen stepped in as manager.

As can often be the case in these play-offs the first leg was a cagey affair and was decided by one goal that came in the 7th minute, when Andrew Sproule crossed to Adam Dougherty who finished past Declan Brown to put the Championship side ahead. Queens had plenty of possession for the remainder of the game but ultimately failed to test Brown’s counterpart Alan Buchanan and it is that sole Dougherty goal that will separate the two sides as they go into tonight’s second leg at Darragh Park.

Cliftonville 3 Glentoran 2

There were plenty of talking points at Solitude on Saturday as Cliftonville and Glentoran met to decide who got the final European spot for this season and the riches that come with it. Cliftonville, who had the benefit of home advantage due to their higher league position, opened the scoring in the 24th minute when the Glens failed to fully clear a corner and Rory Donnelly pounced to put the Reds 1-0 up despite Glentoran players calling for a handball. The home side had the ball in the net again with four minutes of the first-half remaining but Joe Gormley’s effort was ruled out for offside. Cliftonville did score a second just after the hour mark when Gormley crossed for Donnelly to score from close range.

Cliftonville were looking fairly comfortable but with eleven minutes to play the Glens pulled a goal back through Robbie McDaid and two minutes later they were level when the same player was adjudged to have been fouled by Gary Breen and Curtis Allen got himself on the scoresheet. At this point, extra-time was looking likely but Donnelly and Gormley had other ideas as this time Donnelly turned provider for Gormley to score his 34th goal of the season and secure a place in Europe for Cliftonville with less than five minutes of normal time remaining.