FOOTBALL: McIlroy treble helps Ballynure see off Rathcoole in semi-final

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Three Josh McIlroy strikes in a 10-minutes blast secured a McReynolds Cup final place for Ballynure Old Boys.

Saturday’s semi-final at The Diamond a Dan Ellis goal separated the teams at the interval but McIlroy’s third quarter hat-trick ended Rathcoole’s hopes, before acting skipper Mark Leckey sealed the 5-0 whitewash with a late penalty.

Last season Rathcoole earned the reputation of being Ballynure’s bogey team with league and cup wins to their credit, but as early as the first minute they were fortunate to survive, when McIlroy just couldn’t get a touch on a Paul McIntyre cross with the goal gaping.

Ellis fared better in the 20th minute when he got on to the end of a Gareth Curlett free and flicked the ball into the net.

The hosts came within a whisker of equalising when Ryan Stewart managed to finger-tip a rasper on to the bar, with the ball scrambled clear but overall Gary Burns’ lads had the upper-hand and deserved to turn round one up.

Then came the McIlroy blast. In the 50th minute he ran on to a Leckey pass and slotted past the advancing keeper, and five minutes later he doubled his tally with the best goal of the afternoon – a rocket from twenty-five yards into the top corner.

On the hour a piece of individual skill took him past a couple of defenders before completing his treble.

Rathcoole were forced to play the final 25 minutes with only 10 men, when one of their players retired injured, with all three substitutes already deployed.

Near the end when David Higgins was clattered in the box, Leckey got his name on the scorecard with a wrong way penalty.

“As usual Rathcoole gave us a good game and made us work hard for the win,” said Ballynure boss, Gary Burns “but Josh McIlroy’s quick hat-trick blew them out of the water.”

Ballynure Old Boys: Stewart; Penny, Robinson, M Leckey, G Curlett; D Higgins, Forsythe, McIlwaine, McIntyre; Ellis, McIlroy. Subs: Todd, Watson, Boreland.