Heartache and windfall for Ballynure Old Boys
BALLYNURE OBs' two cup semi-finals produced joy and heartbreak within the space of four days.
In midweek, Robert Reid's lads advanced to the final of the McReynolds Cup, but on Saturday they lost out on penalties in the Crawford Cup, which was a massive disappointment. On no fewer than three occasions the villagers were in front before a large crowd at Mossley, but each time Brantwood responded to take the game in to a scoreless extra-time session, and then the Belfast club prevailed in the penalty shootout to triumph 4-3.
With Paul Leckey suspended, Michael Duff moved in to the vacant central midfield position to partner Johnny Gracey, with Alan Dew and John Guy patrolling the flanks, while Mark Campbell and Kyle Agnew were paired in attack.
With no regular goalkeeper available, Uel Adams continued in goal, where he was given sound protection by the regular back four - Glenn Meikle (C), Barry Penny, Paul McAllister and Richard Chambers - but the action was mainly at the opposite end in the opening quarter.
Campbell was denied by the keeper, and from the rebound Agnew fired against the post, but eventually Duff opened the scoring with a back post header from a Gracey corner.
The lead was short-lived with Brants equalising three minutes later, when a corner was partially cleared to a midfielder, who rammed the ball in to the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Brantwood had plenty of possession but rarely threatened Adams, while his opposite number had a few anxious moments before Dew regained the lead in the 40th minute after leaving two defenders trailing.
During the second session Brantwood's tricky left winger gave the 'Nure defence a torrid time, and it was he who set up the equaliser three minutes in to the second session, when he crossed for the centre forward to blast past Adams.
In the 65th minute Ballynure forged ahead for the third time, when a Duff header from a Campbell corner was cleared off the line to Dew, who doubled his tally with a low strike from close range.
Eight minutes from time the visiting left winger again skinned his marker before being brought down by McAllister in the box, and Adams had no chance from the resultant penalty.
Substitute Kenny Higgins might have settled the tie in the closing moments, but his header cleared the crossbar after Campbell had set up the scoring opportunity.
So at 3-3 the tie went in to a nervy 20 minutes of extra time in which neither side managed to break the deadlock, but the city side won the penalty drama 4-3, with Duff, Chambers and Campbell the 'Nure marksmen.
Robert Reid said that the suspension of ace midfielder Mark Leckey was a bitter blow and tipped the scales in favour of Brantwood, who are now likely to collect silverware in their first season in the Ballymena set-up, after a distinguished record in Irish League second tier level.
There was drama too in the McReynolds Cup semi-final that never was!
Coleraine Crusaders, who are favourites to finish runners-up in the Ballymena Premier League, were scheduled to provide the opposition at Mossley, but they sensationally withdrew, giving Robert Reid's lads a walkover to the final.
Apparently, after having two players sent off in a league fixture a few days earlier, the Crues were unwilling to field an understrength team and opted to pull out.
So football fans in the Ballyclare area are likely to be heading for Allen Park in Antrim tomorrow (Friday) evening when Ballynure will meet Dunloy in the final of the McReynolds Cup (kick-off 7.00pm).
This will be Robert Reid's final game in charge before handing over the reins to Alan Hunter and the players are determined to send him off with a win.