Ballynure win McReynolds Cup final

Andy Forsythe breaks from the midfield in Ballynure Old Boys 3-2 McReynolds Cup final victory over Newtowne FC. INNT 16-025-GR

Andy Forsythe breaks from the midfield in Ballynure Old Boys 3-2 McReynolds Cup final victory over Newtowne FC. INNT 16-025-GR

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Striker Ricky Higgins and defender Mark Leckey scored the goals that won the McReynolds Cup for Ballynure OB.

Opponents Newtowne dominated the opening 15 minutes at Allen Park, but they found themselves trailing 3-0 at the break, before salvaging some pride with two second-half strikes that set up a nervy finish.

“We were glad to get the 3-2 result that landed the trophy, but there was no celebrating, for there is more work to be done as we chase a league and cup treble,” said manager Gary Burns.

“We are sitting at the top of the Ballymena Intermediate League but we also have the Crawford Cup final against Antrim Rovers. These are massive games, so we will keep the celebrations on hold. However, with half-a-dozen former Ballyclare Comrades players on board we have a strong panel, and I hope that we will break club records by finishing with three trophies.”

The Limavady lads started in top gear, forcing several corners, but without seriously testing Paul Hughes in the home goal.

The game was turned on its head as Ballynure rammed in three quick goals. Ricky Higgins opened the scoring when he slid in at the back post to turn Johnny McClurg’s free-kick into the net, and on the half-hour Leckey got the final touch in a goalmouth scramble to double the lead.

In one of the most fluent moves of the match, midfielders David Officer and David Higgins brought the ball out of defence before Higgins crossed for his older brother to double his personal tally with a near-post header.

Ballynure carried the momentum in to the second session, but the ‘Towne keeper pulled off two magnificent saves to deny the impressive Higgins brothers, before his side regained the initiative by pulling one back with a free-kick that rocketed into the roof of the net on 55 minutes.

Now the boot was on the other foot, with play mainly in home territory, forcing Hughes to come to the rescue three times. One was a reflex save, followed by two diving ones, but eventually he was beaten with a close range finish to make it 3-2 with only three minutes remaining.

Newtowne had the ball in the net again, but an offside infringement had been spotted, so Gary Burns’ lads held on to collect the trophy.

“Newtowne tore us apart in the opening 15 minutes, but then we had the edge before they came back at us in the second half and we had to defend for our lives at the death to stay in front,” summed up Burns.

“We owe a lot to our keeper, Paul Hughes, who pulled off three world class saves in the second half when we were under the cosh, while David Higgins is revelling in his new midfield role. Previously he had been a striker like his brother Ricky, but at right midfield he simply oozes talent.

“It was an exciting cup final, and there will be a second instalment this weekend when the teams clash again in Limavady in what could be a title decider.”

Ballynure OB: Hughes; Robinson, Forsythe, Leckey, M Curlett; D Higgins, McClurg, Officer, M Duff (C), R Burns; R Higgins. Subs: Penny, McGreevy, McAuley, Houston.

Ballynure face a difficult week: Rathcoole were due at Mossley on Tuesday evening (April 21), followed by that trip to Limavady on Saturday. Two wins would secure the Intermediate division title.