Linfield overcame Institute in today’s Sunday lunchtime Irish Cup Quarter-Final tie at Brandywell Stadium in Londonderry to set up a crunch semi-final ‘Big Two’ derby against rivals Glentoran.

In Linfield’s solitary change from the team that beat Ballymena United at Windsor Park last weekend, Kirk Millar came into the starting line-up in place of Kyle McClean who missed out through injury.

The Blues had the majority of the possession, with Institute looking to damage on the break when they pinched the ball back. It took 15 minutes before the game’s first meaningful effort, and it came from ‘Stute, as former Crusaders attacker Mikhail Kennedy took on a shot from distance which Chris Johns pushed around the post. The following corner then fell for Sean Carlin on the edge of the box and he fizzed a fierce strike not far wide.

David Healy’s men went close a few minutes later with a good move as Euan East showed tidy control at the back post to bring down Ethan McGee’s cross before teeing up Kirk Millar just outside the box, and the winger was unlucky to see a stylish effort with the outside of his right foot well saved by Muldoon who pushed it over the bar. From the following corner, Institute somehow survived an almighty goalmouth scramble as several Linfield players queued up to see shots courageously blocked at close range.

The breakthrough in the match arrived after 34 minutes as Linfield took the lead. The ball was knocked down by Josh Archer for Ethan McGee just outside the Institute box and the 21-year-old – who was playing in central midfield – took a touch before hitting a dipping volley which ended up in the far bottom corner as the former Dungannon Swifts player netted his first goal for Linfield.


Two early second half goals within the space of two minutes put Linfield well on their way to the semi-finals. They were two good goals with Kirk Millar influential in both.

The Blues doubled their lead on 56 minutes as Matthew Fitzpatrick scored for the second game in a row, netting his ninth goal of the season. It was an excellent finish from the striker as he got across the front post to meet Kirk Millar’s cross with a glancing header to clinically dispatch the ball into the far corner.

Millar then went from assister to goalscorer a minute later as he won the ball up the right wing and played a one-two with Fitzpatrick before chipping the ball with class into the far top corner of the net as the winger bagged his eighth goal of the season.

In the aftermath of the third goal, Linfield introduced Joel Cooper for valuable gametime as he replaced Rhys Annett, and then David Healy was forced into another change minutes later as Euan East picked up a concerning hamstring injury and he was replaced by Dane McCullough who went to wing back with Matthew Clarke slotting into the back three.

‘Stute felt McCullough could have been dismissed minutes after coming on when, having already been booked for a high foot, he was late in the tackle and made a foul, but escaped a second booking. There was a bit of bite in the match midway through the second half, with several bookings handed out for both teams.

The Blues were comfortable until the latter stages when they made all their substitutions and Kevin Deery’s men showed resilience to pull a late goal back on 86 minutes as Caoimhin Porter found Jamie Dunne out left and his driven cross into the middle found the grateful Shane McGinty for a straightforward finish from close range.

‘Stute almost scored again on 88 minutes when a cross was hooked into the box and defender Shane Boyle won the header, and he drew a good save from Chris Johns down low to his right. Had it gone in, it would have been an uncomfortable finish for the Blues, but ultimately, Johns’ save ensured the five additional minutes were comfortable for David Healy’s men.

The date, time, location and ticket information for the semi-final are yet to be determined and will be communicated in due course. At this stage, all that can be confirmed is that the semi-finals of the Irish Cup are due to take place on the weekend of Friday 29th/Saturday 30th March.

The Blues now turn their attentions to next Sunday’s Bet McLean League Cup Final against Portadown at Windsor Park.


Written by Jamie Megarry