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Belfast Live

Larne striker Ronan Hale: I'll remember this goal - and night - for the rest of my life

Ronan Hale was conducting a press interview in the cramped Glentoran tunnel area when Larne boss Tiernan Lynch sidled past with a mischievous grin on his face.

“He was poor," declared Lynch in a staged whisper, tongue firmly planted in cheek. "He didn’t work hard enough, two of his goals were crosses.."

“I saved your bacon,” chuckled Hale as he held on to the match ball after a pulsating four-goal haul in Friday night’s dramatic European play-off final at the BetMcLean Oval.

Read more: Glentoran boss Mick McDermott reads riot act after "inexcusable" European play-off collapse

With Glentoran leading 2-0 and heading for the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, Lynch sprang the talented 23-year-old from the bench.

And the former Derry City and Crusaders forward responded with two goals in normal time and another two in extra-time to secure a stunning win in East Belfast.

His fourth was the pick of the bunch, a shot from just outside his own penalty area, the ball trickling into the empty net with Glens keeper Aaron McCarey up for a set-piece.

“I was actually going to go and pick Aaron up,” said Hale. “I saw him running up for the set-piece, but I had a dead leg and decided to stay out in case something broke.

“The ball fell to me just outside our 18 yard box and I decided to hit it as hard as I could. I did think ‘shoot’, but my main aim was to get it as far away from danger as possible.

“It’s fair to say that’s the furthest I’ve ever scored a goal from in my career. To watch it travel the distance it did and trickle into the net was brilliant.”

While his fourth goal with the last kick of the game stole the headlines, Hale believes his first of the night in the 74th minute was key to Larne’s spirited fightback.

Glens defender Paddy McLean was red carded for a tug on Davy McDaid inside the area and Hale fired home the rebound after his initial spot-kick was saved.

He would rifle home a successful penalty nine minutes later to force extra-time, before making it 3-2 with a 99th minute shot that crept in at the far post.

“The first goal was important and it gave us belief,” said Hale. “I missed the actual penalty but followed up and managed to score to get us back in the game.

“The second penalty gave me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not easy going up for a second time and I thought the keeper was going to read me, but I managed to score.

“When you’re on the bench it can be frustrating but when you’re called upon you have to be ready. I managed to get four goals and the team’s into Europe which is brilliant.

Larne celebrate winning Friday night's European play-off (INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)

“We’ve had a difficult season so to be back in Europe is fantastic. And to score four goals in a European play-off is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Hale was satisfied to end a “sticky season” on a high note - and 18 goals in all competitions - after struggling for regular game time.

A high-profile transfer saga in January, when Cliftonville chased his signature right up until Deadline Day, also proved a distraction heading into the second half of the campaign.

“I’ve had a sticky season,” said Hale. “I was playing, then I wasn’t playing, and all the transfer talk at the time did play on my mind a bit.

“The last six weeks, I’ve been on the bench and it’s been hard for me, but these are rewards. To come on in a European play-off and score four goals is brilliant.”

Read more: Larne striker Ronan Hale scores wonder goal from edge of own penalty box

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