Title Race Nerves

Five games of Irish Premiership football remain this season and the fate of the Gibson Cup lies in our own hands. March’s victory over Glenavon put us level on points with them as we turn into the post-split fixtures but the final fixture against them in April will be even more crucial still.

With the league fairytale being so prominent, it may be easy to forget that we have already secured two cup wins this season so far. Adding the league in and an Irish Cup Semi Final, could we do the unthinkable and secure a clean sweep?!

The title run in began with a trip to Linfield and gave us our third league Big Two victory of the season! It was another dominant performance from us and Dale Gorman’s 92nd minute goal served merely as a minor consolation for the hosts.

We made the Irish Cup semi final with Championship side Portadown the formality it should have been. Conor Bradley filled in up top as Niklas Haugland was rested for the vital league fixture against Glenavon.

Finally, we welcomed Glenavon back to the Oval and fought them off in a closely matched game which allowed us to extend our lead at the top to 6 points, thanks to their own results in recent weeks. We had one hand on the Trophy!

Ballymena were down to 10 men after an incredible 14 seconds (a world record?!) and the 3 points were a certainty from that point despite us allowing them back into the game after taking a 3rd minute lead. Glenavon’s win meant that the league title was still not secured.

What an odd way to seal a league title win – on a tuesday night trip to Newry. Three goals up and sailing at half time, we almost allowed Newry back into the game but stood strong to celebrate winning the Irish Premiership with a game to go!

You could be forgiven for thinking the final league game would be a non-event but a win would have ensured we set a club record for points won in a season. It wasn’t to be and I used the game as a chance to give some minutes to a few players I knew would be leaving us when the season ends.


The only thing left to tie up was the 2022 Irish Cup final which pitted us against… GLENAVON! We fought them off in the NIFL Cup Final, we beat them in the race for the league title. They won their own regional final (Mid-Ulster Cup) as we won ours (County Antrim Shield). It seems a fitting way to close out the season.

Alas, it wasn’t to be! 17 year old Stephen Gawne was on top form as the Irish Cup proved one stretch too far for Glentoran this season. Being hit for three goals without reply represented our worst result of the season.

I feel daft for thinking it but the loss in the Irish Cup is really grinding on me. Although on a positive note, it leaves me with plenty to work towards next season along with Champions League football!

There were so many big performers this season that this stat screen makes for such pleasant reading.

Aston Oxborough made an incredible 56 appearances, which included two stretches of extra time and one penalty shootout, without missing a minute!

Conor Pepper’s 18 assists set a club record and contributed to him having the highest average rating in the squad – 7.53.

Niklas Haugland bagged 28 goals and 9 assists, his strike partner Robbie McDaid marked 21 goals and 14 assists.

New boy Jake Collum ended the season with 16 appearances, playing 1,054 minutes and scoring 7 goals with 1 assist. He will become a big feature for us in the next season.

All of the above put in serious shifts this season but my personal player of the year would be midfielder Mackenzie Hunt. The former Irish U19 international scored 15 goals and set up a further 17 from his role as Mezzala-Attack. His player trait of ‘runs with ball through centre’ served him well time and time again as he marauded through the middle of the pitch, striking fear into opposition defences!

The Mourne(view) Legacy

In my first season it was an other unremarkable draw with Glenavon at Mourneview Park in April that saved me from an almost certain sacking.

How fitting it is that two years on it would be two fixtures over Glenavon that would help me to secure my first league title of the save! Who doesn’t love the narrative!?

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