Ards 3 v 2 Cliftonville
Budweiser Cup Semi-Final at Windsor Park, Belfast
Tuesday, 7 December, 1993
By Adrian Monaghan
Mention of this game always brings the response: “Mooney’s free-kick”. Paul Mooney, son-
in-law of boss Roy Coyle, was never the most popular figure among the Ards faithful. This
very private individual always kept his distance and never struck up a rapport with the fans,
this aloofness was often, and unfairly, mistaken for arrogance.
Any prejudices that the fans may have held though were truly forgotten on this memorable
December evening as he blasted Ards into the Budweiser Cup final with what can only be
described as an absolute rocket of a shot from an injury time free kick.
Depending on whom you talk to the Ards winner was scored from five to twenty yards
inside the Cliftonville half. One excitable supporter still swears to this day that the free kick
was actually inside the Ards half, while another wag swears Mooney took it from Midgeley
Ards went into this game full of confidence after sticking nine past Newry and four past
Glentoran in their two previous matches. Manager Coyle stuck with the side which had
performed so well in these games and that meant no place for Captain David Jeffrey who
was free from suspension.
Dubliner Christian Bowes had the first chance of the game in the opening minute but he
fired wide from a decent angle. I am afraid that is as good as it good for Ards as Cliftonville
took over and completely swamped an Ards side who struggled to come to grips with the
slick-moving Belfast outfit.
It was no surprise then when the Reds took the lead on fifteen minutes. The impressive
Shaun Strang picked his spot to drill the ball into the far corner after a couple of weak
challenges from Puckrin and Wilson.
Cliftonville, who were in total control at this point, were reduced to ten men though when
Micky Donnelly literally took the head staggers and inexplicably charged head first into the
back of Martin McGaughey as the ball ran out for a throw in. Referee Keatley dispatched
the midfielder to the changing rooms with a straight red card.
Cliftonville to their credit did not let this upset them as they continued to dominate and it
was Ards who looked as if they were a man short as they chased shadows for the remainder
of the half.
The Cliftonville dominance was rewarded with a second goal as Aaron Shearer tapped home
from close range on twenty-five minutes. Ards’ inertia at this point was well demonstrated
when two Ards defenders stood and watched as Mark Gill glided through unchallenged on
thirty-eight minutes to make it 3-0, but mercifully he blasted wide.
Ards it must be said were a complete shambles and to compound their first half misery they
had three players booked in three separate incidents over a five minute period. Frustration
at chasing shadows all night was evidently creeping in.
If manager Coyle gave his charges an ear-bashing at half time it had absolutely no affect as
Ards were every bit as lethargic second half as they were first. Apart from an Andy Beattie
effort after a few minutes they offered nothing and indeed could have been further behind
as Mark Gill brought a fine save out of Steven Vance close to the hour mark.
Things did improve slightly when Marty McCann and Ken Blood were sent on for the
unfortunate Bustard and Beattie, unfortunate in that any one of ten players could have
been given the hook.
Having used both substitutes Ards were also reduced to ten men as Karl Wilson was
stretchered off after taking a heavy challenge. Things looked really bleak now.
It looked as if Ards had shot their bolt when McGaughey sliced his shot past the far post
with eight minutes remaining. It had looked easier to score as he had done all the hard
work in drawing Nicky Brujos from his goal.
This miss signalled the end for many of the Ards fans as the South Stand slowly started to
empty. As the disgruntled supporters streamed for the exits a few hurled the usual dog’s
abuse at the Ards board, who were sitting as meek as lambs in the director’s box. One fan
in particular took his scarf off and threw it at a director. If memory serves me right the fan
uttered something about sticking the scarf where the sun don’t shine.
With two minutes remaining Ken Blood headed in, what on the surface, seemed like nothing
but a face saving consolation.
On the ninetieth minute a ball, hit more in hope than in expectation, landed into the
Cliftonville six yard box. Former Ards defender Joe Kerr got to it first and swung his leg to
hoof it back up to where it had came from. The ball deflected behind him though and also
behind Brujos to bring Ards an unlikely equaliser.
How Ards found themselves level in a game in which they were just not at it was totally
bizarre but such is the ways of football.
In the second minute of stoppage time Ards were awarded a free kick just inside the
Cliftonville half. Paul Mooney set it up and signalled to the rest of the side to get into the
Cliftonville box. Everyone was expecting a loopy ball to hit the penalty spot. Mooney had
other ideas though.
With a rain-lashed gale blowing down off the Spion Kop Mooney took a few steps back and
keeping his knee well over the ball, lashed in a shot which barely lifted a few feet of the
ground and rocketed into the back off the net to put Ards into the lead, into the Budweiser
Cup final and their fans into ecstasy, well those who had stayed on anyway.
Ards- S.Vance, E.O’Neill, G.Puckrin, W.Murphy, P.Mooney, I.Bustard, A.Beattie,
M.McGaughey, D.Erskine, K.Wilson, C.Bowes. Subs-M.McCann for Bustard and K.Blood for
Cliftonville- N.Brujos, J.Kerr, C.McCreadie, M.Tabb, M.Donnelly, S.Strang, T.McCann,
G.Sliney, A.Shearer, P.McAllister, M.Gill. Subs- S.O’Kane and G.Flynn.
Refeee- George Keatley (Bangor)