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Season review: Northern Ireland

Published: Wednesday 20 May 2009, 10.01CET
The tide turned in Belfast in the 2008/09 season with Glentoran FC finally breaking arch-rivals Linfield FC's three-season dominance of the domestic league title, while another capital side, Crusaders FC, took the cup.
by Tommy Allen
from Belfast
Season review: Northern Ireland
Glentoran manager Alan McDonald saw his side end Linfield's three-year dominance in the league ©Sportsfile
Published: Wednesday 20 May 2009, 10.01CET

Season review: Northern Ireland

The tide turned in Belfast in the 2008/09 season with Glentoran FC finally breaking arch-rivals Linfield FC's three-season dominance of the domestic league title, while another capital side, Crusaders FC, took the cup.

The tide turned in Belfast in 2008/09 with Glentoran FC finally breaking arch-rivals Linfield FC's three-season dominance of the domestic league title, while another capital side, Crusaders FC, took the cup.

Champions: Glentoran FC
The Glens denied Linfield a fourth consecutive crown, winning the title by a point on the last day of the season. However, the key game – and goal – came on a Friday night in April when Michael Halliday scored a last-gasp equaliser to earn Glentoran a precious 1-1 draw at home against Linfield. The east Belfast side stayed in front for the rest of the campaign to collect the Gibson Cup for the first time since 2005.

Cup final: Crusaders FC 1-0 Cliftonville FC
The first ever all-north Belfast Irish Cup final was won by a goal worth waiting for from Mark Dickson. The Crues striker volleyed in superbly early in the second half and although he later went off injured his team-mates defended well to earn the Shore Road club their first Irish Cup in 41 years.

European places:
Glentoran – UEFA Champions League, first qualifying round
Crusaders – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
Linfield – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Lisburn Distillery FC – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round

Player of the Year: Chris Scannell (Cliftonville FC)
Glentoran may have won the league and Crusaders the cup but the Reds striker was the choice of both media and supporters for the main Player of the Year awards. He scored 27 goals, including the first in their 2-1 County Antrim Shield final triumph against Linfield, along with winning the penalty that led to the second goal.

One to watch: Colin Coates (Crusaders FC)
The 23-year-old Crusaders captain was outstanding at centre-half in the Irish Cup final, even outplaying Player of the Year Scannell. His impressive displays over the season earned him a call-up to the Northern Ireland senior squad for next month's international friendly against Italy.

Surprise package: (Lisburn Distillery FC)
The Lisburn Distillery board surprised almost everyone by sacking manager Paul Kirk after he guided the club to fourth spot and a place in the new UEFA Europa League. Jimmy Brown, former Glenavon FC boss and previously long-time Glentoran assistant manager, has been appointed as his successor. However, after the resignation of the club's vice-chairman and protests from players, Kirk may yet return to extend his 13-year tenure with the Whites.

Leading scorer: Chris Scannell, Cliftonville (27)

Number: 0
The number of trophies won by Linfield after completing a treble of league and Irish Cup doubles over the previous three seasons, including a clean sweep of all four domestic trophies in 2005/06.

Quote
"The season wouldn't have been a failure if we hadn't won the league because we have made gradual progress. We made the final of the Setanta Cup [the cross-border competition] against all the odds ... and away from home in Cork City's backyard we were 45 minutes away from winning the competition." Glentoran manager Alan McDonald.

Last updated: 20/05/09 12.10CET

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