Harryville Homers clinched their first Toals County Antrim Junior Shield title with a 2-0 win over Ballyvea tonight.
Robert Duddy’s side produced a superb performance to overwhelm their Newcastle & District League opponents in a largely one-sided decider at Seaview.
First half goals from Darren Campbell and Alan Rainey put Homers in a commanding position and they would have won much more comfortably but for an outstanding goalkeeping performance from Ballyvea’s Steven Main in the second period.
It was a surprisingly open start for a cup final with David Nicholl and Ryan Stewart both having efforts narrowly off target, while Ballyvea also looked threatening in the early evening sunshine.
Paul McNeill came close to opening the scoring for Homers on 18 minutes when latched onto a poor clearance by Steven Main and sprinted clear of the defence but the keeper atoned for his mistake by standing up to block the striker’s shot behind.
At the other end, It was the Newcastle & District League side who should have taken the lead on 21 minutes.
Graeme Gordon looked odds-on to score for Ballyvea after keeper Alex McCosh had blocked Mark McConnell’s first effort but Nicholl appeared from nowhere to block the shot with his legs.
And those defensive heroics proved even more decisive as Homers took the lead four minutes later.
It came from a lightning-quick counter-attack down the right which saw Paul McNeill slide the ball across goal for Darren Campbell to steer home from eight yards - the midfielder’s 24th goal of the season.
The game turned completely on its head in a remarkable 60-second spell just short of the half-hour mark.
Ballyvea should have been level on 28 minutes when Mark Burden’s absolute thunderbolt of a shot - after his initial free kick had been blocked - cannoned off the underside of the bar and came to rest under the body of grateful Homers keeper Alex McCosh, who knew very little about it.
Straight away at the other end, Homers launched another attack which ended with Gary Bonnes’ miscued shot falling into the path of Alan Rainey, who instinctively flicked it past keeper Main. As everyone glanced towards the referee’s assistant in anticipation of a possible offside decision, the official remained unmoved and the goal stood.
Ballyvea, to their credit, refused to cave in and came close to halving the deficit four minutes before the interval when, from a corner, the ball made its way to the back post where centre-back David McConnell’s header was headed off the line by the alert Ryan Stewart.
Homers came out at the start of the second half looking for the decisive third goal with Richard Reid having a shot deflected behind for a corner.
The Harryville men should have put the outcome beyond doubt on 52 minutes when Alan Rainey wriggled clear of the Ballyvea defence but with only keeper Main to beat, he rolled the ball agonisingly wide of the far post.
In a rare attack from Ballyvea, Mark Burden’s free kick bounced awkwardly on the artificial turf in front of Alex McCosh but the Homers keeper confidently held the effort.
Straight away at the other end, Main spilled Paul McNeill’s shot but was up quickly to block Darren Campbell’s follow-up effort, while Homers almost grabbed a third in freakish circumstances when Gary Bonnes’ cross from the right flank suddenly started to drift goalwards, forcing Main to back-pedal to tip the ball over.
Main again excelled on 69 minutes when he beat out Paul McNeill’s shot from an acute angle as Homers pressed relentlessly.
Main, an imposing figure in goal, launched a one-man crusade to keep Homers at bay and produced his best save of the lot, diving low to his left to keep out Gary Bonnes’ deft header and then spring up again to block Ricky Nicholl’s follow-up as Homers ran out comfortable winners.
Harryville Homers; McCosh, R Nicholl, Russell, Reid, Stewart, Baird, Campbell, Rainey (sub Logan 78), D Nicholl, Bonnes (sub Rowe 83), McNeill (sub Magill 89). Subs (not used): Magill, Spratt, McKay, Rowe.