Peter Wilson reports from Inver Park
LARNE earned a convincing 3-0 home victory over Ballinamallard United to seal the Championship title with five games left. First half goals from Martin Donnelly, David McDaid and Ben Tilney helped the Invermen to their first league title in 47 years and gain promotion to the top flight for the first time since 2008.
There was a party atmosphere at Inver Park and the home side wanted to wrap up the points early on.
Larne first began to threaten the United goal with just 11 minutes gone; Ben Tilney placing an inviting ball in for David McDaid but the striker couldn’t get a touch at the back post.
The first goal came just after the opening quarter of an hour when in a well-worked move, Lee Lynch found McDaid who dummied the ball into the path of Martin Donnelly and the ex-Cliftonville man calmly slotted home from 10 yards.
In the Mallards first real period of possession, Richard Clarke took a stab at goal from distance for the visitors but was unable to find the target.
The hosts lead was doubled not long after the half hour mark when McDaid’s initial effort smashed off the post. The ball was gathered and delivered back into the danger zone by Jeff Hughes. The keeper pushed the ball into the path of McDaid who made no mistake to bury the ball in the net.
Clarke was unlucky for United again as his shot drifted wide of goal on 42 minutes.
Tiernan Lynch’s men capped off a commanding first half performance with Tilney weaving through several defenders before picking out Fuad Sule. When the former Barnet midfielder’s shot was blocked, it was Tilney who was on hand to poke home.
After the break, things quietened down as both sides had very few chances. McDaid was denied his 23rd of the season when John Connelly saved his one-on-one effort, and the home side’s best chance came with two minutes to go, as Donnelly curled a free-kick just over the top.
The final whistle was the signal for the celebration to begin however, with Tiernan Lynch and his players enjoying their title party.
Larne: Devlin, Sule (Hassin), Ramsey, McEleney, Kelly, McDaid (Stewart), Donnelly, Tilney, Lynch (Scullion), Cosgrove, Hughes
Unused subs: Dougherty, Tear
Ballinamallard United: Connolly, Taheny, Smyth, Clarke, Arkinson (Edgar), Kelly, McIlwaine (Campbell), Cashel (Hume), McCann, O’Reilly, McEvoy
Unused subs: Henderson, Warrington
Referee: Niall Gallagher
Man of the Match: Jeff Hughes (Larne)