Harryville Homers completed a remarkable hat-trick of Irish Junior Cup wins as they beat Rosemount Rec 3-1 in today’s final.
Two goals in the final six minutes from skipper Gary Bonnes ensured that Robert Duddy’s men emulated Immaculata’s feat of winninh the country’s most prestigious junior trophy three years in a row.
Homers made just one change from the side which had started in the midweek County Antrim Junior Shield final, with fit-again James Gracey replacing Richard Reid in the centre of defence.
The Ballymena side enjoyed a dream start asc they took the lead with less than two minutes on the clock.
It came from a move down the right hand side which saw Alan Rainey advance into the penalty area before cutting the ball back for Paul McNeill to guide a shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Rather than rock Rosemount back on their heels, the setback seemed to galvanise the Greyabbey side and they came back strongly with Rosemount player/manager Mark Miller forcing Alex McCosh to show good handling after six minutes.
Alan Rainey spurned a gilt-edged chance to double Homers’ advantage on 14 minutes when his pace took him clear of the Rosemount defence but keeper Chris Rice was off his line quick to make an excellent block.
Straight away at the other end, a long diagonal ball from Rosemount left-back Alan Eccles saw Miller beat the offside trap. His initial effort was well saved by McCosh and as the ball rolled agonisingly towards the goal-line, the Homers keeper was up quickly to dive on the loose ball ahead of Miller.
But the Rosemount boss wasn’t to be denied and it was he who brought his side level on 24 minutes.
Nicky Eccles’ curling free kick from Homers’ left flank was only parried by McCosh and Miller was the most alert to ram the rebound high into the roof of the net.
Homers missed a good chance to edge back in front a minute before the break when Alan Rainey’s pass deflected off a defender into the path of Paul Mcneill but from a tight angle, the striker could only blaze a shot over.
The second half started in similarly bustling fashion to the first with Alan Rainey’s shot-cum-cross deflected goalwards by David Nicholl towards the back post but Paul McNeill just couldn’t steer the ball home from a rapidly-decreasing angle.
Straight away at the other end, Nicky Eccles’ cross from the left was poked goalwards by Gary Canmore but Ryan Stewart was on hand to hack the ball off the Homers’ goal-line.
Homers almost went back in front in freakish fashion as full-back Ricky Nicholl’s cross caught on the swirling breeze and clipped the angle of post and bar on its way over, much to the relief of the back-pedalling Rosemount keeper.
But the second half went into a dismal lull and the game seemed certain to be heading to extra-time before a remarkable last six minutes.
On 84 minutes, David McWhirter’s deep cross from the right was headed back across goal by Darren Campbell for the in-rushing Gary Bonnes to fire into the net from close range.
It was almost 3-1 a couple of minutes later as Paul McNeill wriggled his way into the Rosemount penalty area and his stinging shot was brilliantly turned behind by Rice.
But the outcome was put beyond any doubt on 88 minutes as as Rosemount, pushing men forward in attack, were caught out and McNeill’s pass released Bonnes whose shot deflected off the keeper and nestled in the bottom corner, prompting scenes of wild celebration.
Harryville Homers: McCosh, R Nicholl, Stewart, Russell, Gracey, Baird, Campbell, Bonnes, Rainey, McNeill, D Nicholl. Subs (not used): McKay, Reid, Spratt, Logan, McWhirter.
Rosemount Rec: Rice, Melville, A Eccles, Atcheson, McAvoy, Stewart, Canmore (sub Palmer 60), Harper, Crawford, Miller, N Eccles. Subs (not used): Harrison, Keenan, K Speirs, M Spiers.
Referee: G Stewart.