Cliftonville's influx of League of Ireland players did not have to wait long for their first taste of major silverware as the Reds retained the League Cup with a 3-2 victory over Ballymena United at Windsor Park on Saturday evening.
Peter Cherrie was a somewhat surprise inclusion in goal for the champions with David McDaid coming on as a second half substitute before the former Derry City striker begins a six game suspension for head butting an opponent during a fifth round Irish Cup tie. Robert Bayly and ex-Finn Harps forward Sean McCarron were on the bench for the north Belfast side.
In a thrilling final Ballymena United came from two goals down to square the game up in the second half but a late Martin Donnelly goal gave Cliftonville victory and meant that the cup was staying at Solitude for the third year running. Tommy Breslin has now brought seven major trophies to Cliftonville in three years in a remarkably successful period for the club.
In matters pertaining to the league Crusaders hammered out a huge statement of intent by blowing away fellow challengers Portadown by six goals to nil at their Shore road stadium on Friday night. Barry Molloy was one of the stand out performers for the Crues as Jordan Owens helped himself to a hat-trick. Kerry man Diarmuid O'Carroll scored a second half penalty for Stephen Baxter's team as they move seven points clear at the top of the table, though Linfield have two games in hand on their Belfast rivals.
There was also League of Ireland interest in Warrenpoint Town's remarkable 7-0 destruction of Ballinamallard United on Friday night with midfielder Ciaran McDonald, who is on loan from Dundalk, playing all 90 minutes for the south Down side. Darren Forsyth, who spent time with both Shelbourne and Bray Wanderers, came on as a second half substitute and completed the rout with a well taken 87th minute strike.
The Friday night games came too quick for Ruaidhri Higgins, as he waits for international clearance after his move from Dundalk, but former Finn Harps midfielder Shane McGinty played the whole game in Coleraine's 2-1 home defeat to Dungannon Swifts.