On Friday 12th May there were two playoff games to be played in the NIFL Premiership to finish the season: the Europa League playoff final and the promotion/relegation playoff second leg.
Ballymena hosted Glenavon in the Europa League final, the winner of which would earn themselves an estimated £200,000 bonus for Europa League qualification.
Meanwhile, Carrick Rangers and Institute played out the second leg of their promotion/relegation scrap.
Ballymena United 2-1 Glenavon
The game was played out at Ballymena Showgrounds thanks to Ballymena being the higher ranking team in the final league standings.
A goalless first half was dominated mainly by the away side as Joel Cooper, James Gray and Ciaran Martyn all had chances to convert. Ballymena began to gain a foothold in the game toward the end of the half but neither Kyle Owens or Cathair Friel could make the most of their opportunities.
Into the second half, it was Ballymena who struck first as Johnny McMurray crossed for Cathair Friel to tap home from close range. Glenavon responded 13 minutes later as Rhys Marshall volleyed home from six yards out to equalise. The tie was decided on 80 minutes as Kevin Braniff struck from outside the area to give Ballymena the victory. The former Glenavon man’s shot took a wicked deflection and Tuffey was given no chance in the Glenavon goal.
The Sky Blues have enjoyed a resurgence under boss David Jeffrey, securing a cup and European qualification in his first full season in charge.
Carrick Rangers 5-2 (aggregate) Institute
First Leg: Institute 1-1 Carrick Rangers
Championship runners-up Institute opened the scoring in the 40th minute through Michael McCrudden but Carrick returned fire just two minutes later through a Martin Murray penalty. The away goal meant Institute needed to ensure they found a goal in 90 minutes in the second leg or would lose out on the away goal ruling.
Second Leg: Carrick Rangers 4-1 Institute
11 minutes in and it was Carrick who took control through a Kyle McVey volley. Institute hit back a minute later through Sammy Morrow to level the score on the night and the tie on aggregate. Sadly, Institute couldn’t hold out and Steven McCullough restored Carrick’s advantage before the end of the half. In the second half, two Declan O’Brien goals sealed the victory for Carrick, the second coming via the penalty spot.
A cruel end for Institute who have now lost four successive end of season playoffs. Carrick will be delighted to have retained their Premiership status and will look immediately ahead to their summer rebuilding job.