Irish Cup semi-final: Braniff scores four as Glenavon win 4-3 to make final

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Four-goal hero Braniff nets Glenavon final place

Kevin Braniff scored four goals to fire Glenavon into a second Irish Cup final in three seasons and end Crusaders' hopes of a league and cup double.

The Crues were ahead twice in the first half through Matthew Snoddy but Braniff levelled twice for the 2014 winners.

Paul Heatley restored his side's lead soon after the break but Braniff equalised again and scored the winner to secure a thrilling Windsor Park win.

Glenavon will face Linfield or Lurgan Celtic in the final on Saturday 7 May.

Crues out to bridge seven-year gap

Crusaders were looking to take another step towards a first success in the country's premier knockout competition since 2009 and also aiming to avenge their defeat by the Lurgan Blues in the last four stage of the cup two years ago.

Gary Hamilton's side had suffered just one reverse in their last 10 matches and continued that run by ending Stephen Baxter's side's hopes of securing a first season 'double' in the north Belfast club's history.

Jordan Forsythe saw his early 25-yard free-kick brilliantly tipped round by Johnny Tuffey and then the unmarked Braniff poked wide from six yards out after meeting Andy Hall's cross from the right.

Matthew Snoddy ended up on the losing side despite scoring twice in the first half
Matthew Snoddy ended up on the losing side despite scoring twice in the first half

Snoddy notched the opener from five yards out in the 24th minute after Jordan Owens had headed down Gavin Whyte's delivery.

Braniff restored parity three minutes later by curling a left-foot shot past Sean O'Neill when the ball fell to him on the edge of the area following a piercing run from Rhys Marshall.

Snoddy nudged the league leaders ahead again on 28 minutes, unleashing a low left-foot drive low and hard into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards.

Two minutes before the interval, Ciaran Martyn released Braniff to fire under the body of O'Neill and make the half-time score 2-2.

Goalscoring continues after the break

The fans had to wait just two minutes for the goal-scoring action to resume after the interval as Heatley swept a right-foot half-volley into the corner of the net to give his side the lead for the third time.

Braniff headed in Andy McGrory's cross in the 53rd minute and then met Declan O'Brien's pass across the face of goal to rifle in the winner after 72.

Crusaders piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser but Tuffey saved well with his feet from substitute Ross Holden and Diarmuid O'Carroll's effort flew wide of the post.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton: "I'm so proud of the players for the effort they gave us tonight. Three times they were a goal behind but they showed character and kept going right to the end.

"Sometimes I'm Kevin (Braniff)'s biggest critic and he knows that but what a performance he put in.

"It's not often you see a 10 out of 10 performance but that was one tonight and what a time to do it, in a cup semi-final.

"Every goal he scored was a great finish and I'm so glad for him because I keep preaching to him to get himself in the box and get himself into areas where he can affect games."