Tonight saw sixteen ties in the Bet McLean Irish League Cup Second Round take place at venues across the province.
The introduction of the Danske Premiership clubs allowed some of the country’s smaller outfits to dream of a memorable upset and there were many who started with the intention of not letting the opportunity pass.
None more so than the eleven representing the PSNI. The Newforge Lane side, bottom of the Bluefin Sport Championship secured the plum draw with a visit to Premiership champions Crusaders. And they – ahem! – copped an early lead, when Dylan Wilson rounded Harry Doherty in the Crues goal to make it 1-0. Ross Holden, however, smashed home an equaliser just before half-time and early in the second half, the champions took the lead through captain Colin Coates. Despite this, things weren’t comfortable for the North Belfast side until late on, when a late David Cushley double put pay to the tiring part-timers.
Ballyclare Comrades made the short trip to Coleraine and also took an early lead – Gary Donnelly finishing at the second attempt, having been initially thwarted by Chris Johns. Jamie McGonigle grabbed an equaliser for the Bannsiders after twenty-eight minutes, but the Comrades managed to frustrate their North Coast rivals throughout the second period, before Ian Parkhill pounced deep into injury time to grab a winner for the home side.
Much of the attention leading into Tuesday night’s games was focused upon the meeting at the Oval between Glentoran and Larne – the Premiership side hosting the free spending mavericks from the Championship. And it was the Championship side who drew first blood – Darren Stuart popping up at the back post after thirty-five minutes. Robbie McDaid popped up on the stroke of half-time to level for the hosts, before he home side took the lead in the 57th minute through a Marcus Kane header. But parity was restored twenty minutes from time as Chris Ramsey poked home for the Harbour Rats, forcing extra-time. A pulsating game deserved a penalty shootout showdown, but Dylan Davidson late gamble at the back post the ensured the home side scraped through to round three.
Flying high at the top of the Premiership, Glenavon entertained Dergview United at Mourneview Park. Mattie Callaghan opened the scoring for the visitors just after the half hour and amazingly the Co.Tyrone side were able to withstand a second-half onslaught to hold their goal advantage at the final whistle, in what would prove the only real shock of the evening.
Moyala Park, bottom off the third tier Bluefin Sport Intermediate League, got the rare chance to play at the national stadium. But Linfield were in no mood to entertain any upset as Andy Waterworth put the Blues in front in the 28th minute. Michael O’Connor, fresh from his late equaliser at Solitude on Saturday, headed home Linfield’s second, five minutes after the restart before Waterworth grabbed his second, third and fourth of the night inside four blistering minutes around the hour, as the Magherafelt side collapsed. Mark Stafford added a sixth in the 79th minute, before mericless Waterworth grabbed his fifth and Linfield’s seventh two minutes from time. Moyala’s torture was only complete after Jordan Stewart made it 8-0 in stoppage time.
Loughgall probably had the furthest distance to travel, all the way to the Brandywell to take on Institute. And the Co. Armagh side must have wished they didn’t get off the bus, finding themselves 3-0 down at half-time, thanks to goals from Dean Henderson, Joe McCready and Ronan Doherty. Henderson grabbed a fourth on the hour, and Jamie Dunne made it 5-0 six minutes later. The Championship side did manage a consolation through Nathaniel Ferris late doors, however.
Warrenpoint Town were the only Premiership team forced to travel in the Second Round, making the trip to Annagh United of the Intermediate League. The ‘Point took the lead through Eamon Scannell in the thirteenth minute, only for their hosts to equalise a minute later through teenager Jackson Holmes. Ciaran O’Connor however, put the South Down side back in front in the twenty-first minute. Robbie Norton put the tie to bed from the penalty spot in the 61st minute, as the Premiership strugglers advanced.
After a fiery Belfast derby on Saturday against Linfield, Cliftonville had things a lot more straight forward against visiting Lisburn Distillery. Three up at half time through a Joe Gormley brace and an effort from Jay Donnelly, the Reds made it four in the 51st minute through Caoimhin McConnell. Francie Dugan pulled one back for the Whites, before Conor McMenamin rounded off a convincing Cliftonville performance late on.
Ballymena United didn’t have things all their own way as they welcomed Dollingstown to Dixon Park. Cathair Friel opened the scoring for the home side before Richy Thompson equalised for the Co. Down village. Leroy Millar restored the Sky Blues lead on the stroke of half-time before himself and Friel both grabbed goals in the second half to put the Premiership team in firm control. Adam Lecky scored his first goal for David Jeffrey’s side to put a gloss on their performance with nineteen minutes left – running out 5-1 winners in the end.
Newry City continued their up and down start to the season, defeating Knockbreda at the Showgrounds, with youngster Conall Delaney grabbing the only goal of the game just after the half hour.
You would have been forgiven for thinking things were done and dusted at the Bangor Fuels Arena, as Ards raced into a 3-0 lead against Newington inside the first twenty five minutes, through a Michael McClellan penalty and a brace from Jonah Mitchell. But the Intermediate side composed themselves. Johnny Gowdy pulled one back in first-half stoppage time and when Robbie McVarnock added a second in the 63rd minute, it made for a tense last half hour for the home side. They were able to see it through, however, and will be glad of their place in the third round draw.
Holders Dungannon Swifts were denied by Championship side Limavady United in the first-half before breaking the deadlock twelve minutes after the restart through Paul McElroy. But the Roesiders equalised ten minutes from time through Ryan Doherty taking affairs to extra time. It was heartbreak in the end for Sean Friars men, who conceded a late own goal in the final minute of the half-hour to miss out on bringing the tie to penalties.
Elsewhere, there was a comfortable win for Ballinmallard United, despite falling behind to an early goal at home to Lurgan Celtic. Rioghan Crawford opened the scoring for the visitors before two goals apiece from Sam Robb and Ryan Campbell secured passage to the next round for the Fermanagh outfit.
At the Loughshore Hotel Arena, Carrick Rangers blew away Sport & Leisure Swifts, in a meeting of Rangers and the would be Belfast Celtic ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm clash. Daniel Kelly, Michael Smith and Stewart Nixon all grabbed a couple of goals each in a 6-0 win.
It was goalless at Shamrock Park as Tobermore United frustrated Portadown in normal time. The home side eventually took the advantage in the first half of extra-time when Darren Murray opened the scoring before Adam Salley sealed victory for the hosts with a brace in the final five minutes.
The night’s other encounter between Harland & Wolff and Portstewart ended on a sour note, however, as referee Martin Dillon had to abandon the game after a serious injury to Welders player Dan McMurray. The match had gone to extra-time, having finished one apiece before play was halted at Tillysburn Park.
Everyone at Ball-X wishes Dan a full recovery.