Mark Patton scored the winning goal 14 minutes from the end as Glenavon FC got the better of Ballymena United FC 2-1 in a lively Northern Irish Cup final at Windsor Park.
The substitute found the target with a low strike to bring the cup back to Lurgan for the first time since 1997. "I always say, if you do not have dreams in life you have nothing, and it was my dream to win the Irish Cup with Glenavon," said the team's 33-year-old player-manager Gary Hamilton, whose side will join Linfield FC and Crusaders FC in next season's UEFA Europa League first qualifying round, their first European campaign for 13 years.
Hamiltonadded: "My family were all watching and it is a proud moment. We are all Glenavon fans and I am so delighted we have won it. I would have swapped everything I have achieved for this."
It an occasionally torrid game. Glenavon's Gareth McKeown was sent off before Kyle Neill's splendid free-kick put the Lurgan Blues ahead on 35 minutes, but the numbers were soon level as Gary Thompson was dismissed for a high challenge before the break.
The scores were evened up too on 70 minutes when Glenavon keeper James McGrath failed to collect a corner, allowing Allan Jenkins to chest down and finish, but Patton came to his side's rescue before Ballymena's Tony Kane received the third red card of the game in added time.
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