Big week for Ballynure OB

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'THAT was the week that was' for Ballynure Old Boys, who, in the space of three days advanced to the semi-final of the Crawford Cup and the final of the McReynolds Cup.

On Wednesday evening Skegoneill Avenue was the venue for the Crawford Cup tie where they won 1-0 despite playing for an hour with only 10 men against favourites, Brantwood.

Then on Saturday they travelled to Limavady to take on Ballymena Premier League champions-elect, Newtowne, and condemned them to their first defeat of the season by winning the penalty shootout in the McReynolds Cup.

Stand-in keeper Ryan Stewart, who was deputising for Lee Singleton, was the hero against Brantwood. In the first half he brilliantly saved a penalty, and then in the gathering gloom he dashed out to save with his legs when left exposed, and moments later somehow produced a reflex save to tip over a firm header from close range.

Centre-half Johnny Robinson was sent off for handling the ball on the line, but Stewart pulled off a magnificent low save from the resultant penalty.

Surprisingly Brantwood, favourites to clinch the runners-up spot in the league, hadn't created much in a dull first half, and they conceded what proved to be the winner in the 55th minute.

Former Ballyclare Comrades midfielder, David Officer, threaded the ball through to Ronnie Burns, who confidently rounded two defenders before dispatching the ball into the top corner of the net.

Ballynure play Division Three side York Road in the semi-final. On paper it appears to be an easy one for Gary Burns' lads, but the juniors reached the semi-final of the prestigious Junior Cup last month, and will be no soft touch.

The McReynolds Cup semi-final in Limavady was a tension-packed affair with a thrilling 91st-minute equaliser, followed by a penalty shootout.

The teams cancelled each other out in a scoreless first half, and except for corners at each end there was little of note in windy conditions. Neither Ryan Stewart or his opposite number was seriously tested, but in the second session Ballynure retained the ball better when playing against the elements.

The deadlock was broken in the 80th minute when Officer whipped in a delightful cross from a corner and Mark Leckey rose above his marker to plant a header in the net.

In response Newtowne threw caution to the wind, and in the 91st minute a home forward nodded in the equaliser, and two minutes later there was a real let-off for Ballynure when Stewart was beaten by a shot which rattled the underside of the bar and bounced clear.

Ross Miskimmin, Gareth Curlett, Mark Leckey and David Officer expertly converted the first four spot-kicks in the shootout to maintain parity. When a Newtowne player ballooned the ball over the bar, that left the door open for Ronnie Burns to secure the win and he held his nerve to earn Ballynure a place in the final against either Raceview or Desertmartin.

Manager Gary Burns said: "This was a make or break week for us. With two league fixtures to play we are out of the running for honours, so our success or failure of our season depended upon these two cup ties.

"After the heroics on Wednesday evening against Brantwood I brought in Simon Gibson as a straight replacement for the suspended Robinson, and he was my personal choice for the Man of the Match award, but they were all heroes against the top team in the Ballymena set-up."