Harryville Homers this week took big strides towards completing an historic Junior Cup and Shield double in the same season.
Robert Duddy’s side came through two massive semi-finals within a 72-hour period to reach the decider in both competitions.
It all started last Monday night with a surprisingly one-sided 4-0 Junior Cup semi win over firmus energy Saturday Morning League rivals Carniny Rangers. in front of a bumper crowd at the Showgrounds.
When Alan Rainey headed home a Ryan Stewart corner after only four minutes, there was no looking back as Homers added further goals in the second half as Alan Rainey grabbed his second goal of the game en route to collecting the man of the match award.
Paul McNeill and Jason Logan also found the net to clinch a comfortable 4-0 win and set up a May Day showdown with last years beaten finalists Rosemount Rec.
Fast forward to Thursday and Homers came through a much sterner examination as they beat Lower Shankill 5-4 on penalties to reach the final of the Junior Shield.
Goalkeeper Alex McCosh was the hero for Homers as he remarkably saved four penalty kicks in the shootout as Homers overcome their old foes.
Lower Shankill enjoyed the better of the play in the first half and hit the base of the post on the half hour mark, but neither side could make the break through.
Second half saw Homers up the ante and the enigmatic David Nicholl almost produced a bit of magic on two occasions.
The first coming when his overhead kick went narrowly wide and then he was somehow denied by the fingertips of the Shankill keeper as he tipped a drive onto the bar.
In the dying minutes Paul McNeill should have won the game for Homers, but the Shankill keeper was more than a match for him as the game went into extra time.
Homers exertions on Monday night looked to have taken their toll on them as they tired in extra time with Shankill going close on several occasions in the second period, but Homers held out as the game went into a shootout.
Both teams were successful with their first spot kicks with Richard Reid converting for Homers. Alex McCosh then made his first save before Alan Rainey gave Homers a 2-1 advantage after two kicks.
Shankill were then denied once again by McCosh, but Jasin Magill failed to capitalise as his spot kick was save to keep the score at 2-1.
Shankill made no mistake with their fourth kick to level the shootout, and then Mark McKay failed to convert to leave it all square with one kick left each.
Shankill put the pressure on Homers for the first time, but Ryan Stewart made no mistake to send the game into sudden death.
McCosh brilliantly saved Shankill’s fourth kick, but the usually dependable Gary Baird smashed his kick against the post to keep the score at 3-3.
Shankill again put the pressure on Homers, but Justin Rowe slipped in his spot kick to make it 4-4.
Alex McCosh then unbelievably saved a fourth spot kick leaving Jason Logan with the chance to win the shootout and he made no mistake in hammering home the spot kick to win the shootout 5-4.
The Junior Shield Final comes first on Wednesday 27th April at Seaview where they will face Ballyvea in the Final.
It is then onto The National Stadium at Windsor Park for the Junior Cup Final on May Day were they will face Rosemount Rec as they look to make it three Junior Cups in a row.
FIRMUS ENERGY DIVISION ONE
Ahoghill Thistle 2, All Saints OB 4: Back at home and the race for the first division title took another twist in this top-of-the-table clash as Saints inflicted a first defeat of the season on Thistle.
Ahoghill opened the scoring on 15 minutes. Alan Moore whipped a ball to the back post from the right where Matt Boyd rose with a Saints defender and keeper Brian Martin, this caused havoc in the box and the ball broke to David Drummond to drive the ball into the unguarded net.
Saints gathered themselves in the game and drew level on 25 minutes. Aaron Wilkinson broke into the left hand channel and slipped the ball back to Alan Telford just inside the box, he skipped inside beating two Thistle defenders before planting the ball in the corner.
Two minutes into the second half Saints went in front. Gordon Dillon split the home defence for Aaron Wilkinson who raced onto the ball before rounding Stephen Watson, but he was forced wide and instead of shooting from a tight angle he squared to Liam Cassley to bundle the ball home.
Six minutes later Saints doubled their lead. Ryan Gregg picked the ball up on the right and clipped a ball into the box which Liam Cassley controlled brilliantly before rolling under Watson to make it 3-1.
Thistle’s response was almost instant as two minutes later they got a goal back Alan Moore got free on the right and pulled the ball back to the edge of the box to Matt Boyd who hammered the ball into the top corner of the net.
Five minutes from time Saints clinched the victory when Ryan Gregg slipped in Liam Cassley and he brilliantly lobbed the ball over the outrushing Stephen Watson to complete his hat trick.
In the other big game in Division One on Saturday, title-chasing Carniny Rangers were frustrated as they were held to a scoreless draw by Clough Rangers, who could have nicked the win themselves, but for a last minute goal-line clearance by Carniny’s Alan Fullerton.
FIRMUS ENERGY DIVISION TWO
Ahoghill Rovers moved closer to the league leaders Carnlough Swifts with a 4-0 victory over bottom club Galgorm Blues as they slipped further into relegation trouble.
Waveney Swifts moved out of the bottom three as they turned in one of their best performances of the season to see off Cloughmills 7-2 on Wednesday night.
In the other game played on Wednesday Michelin failed to make grounds on the league leaders as they drew 0-0 with Penarol.
In the only game played on Saturday, Michelin again failed to score as they again drew 0-0 this time with Waveney Swifts.
FIRMUS ENERGY DIVISION THREE
Carniny Amateurs and Youth cemented their place in the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over Cullybackey Olympic on Wednesday night, but then on Saturday they travelled to Antrim to face Atletico Antrim and they fought out a thrilling 3-3 draw which all but hands the Division Three title to St Comgalls who now only need a point to seal the title.
MORTGAGE SOLUTIONS TOP FOUR FINAL
This Saturday sees the second final of the season take place, and like the first it involves two familiar foes in the form of Carniny Rangers and Harryville Homers.
Carniny were defeated in last year’s final by Ahoghill Thistle, but got some salvation for this defeat when they sealed a place in this years final with a convincing 4-0victory in the semi final away back in August.
The game will take place in Broughshane at 1.30pm, with a £3 admission fee.
Matches scheduled for this week are:
Tuesday, April 12 (6.45pm) - firmus energy Division One: Ahoghill Thistle v Ballykeel (Ahoghill); All Saints OB v Abbeyview (Showgrounds 7); Glenravel v Clough Rangers (Cargan); Newpark Olympic v Harryville Homers (Forum); Riverdale v Carniny Rangers (Wakehurst 2).
Wednesday, April 13 (6.45pm) - firmus energy Division Two: Ahoghill Rovers v Waveney Swifts (Ahoghill); FC Penarol v Carnlough Swifts (Connor); Galgorm Blues v Michelin (Galgorm); Sporting Ballymoney v Cloughmills; Seven Towers v Cushendall (Showgrounds 4).
firmus energy Division Three: Atletico Antrim v Steadfast (Forum); Braid United v Cullybackey Olympic (Broughshane); Southside Rovers v Carniny Amateurs & Youth (Wakehurst 1); Wakehurst Star v St Comgalls (Showgrounds 7).
Saturday, April 16 - Mortgage Solutions (Mill Street, Ballymena) Top Four final (1.30pm): Carniny Rangers v Harryville Homers (Broughshane).
Rainey Cup, round three (10.15am): Atletico Antrim v Ahoghill Thistle (Forum).
Ace Cup, round one: All Saints OB v Raceview (Showgrounds 5).
firmus energy Division One: Glenravel v Abbeyview (Cargan); Clough Rangers v FC Moylena (Clough).
George McAuley Cup, round one: Michelin v Cloughmills.
firmus energy Division Two: Ahoghill Rovers v Holywell (Ahoghill); Carnlough Swifts v Randalstown; FC Penarol v Cushendall (Connor); Waveney Swifts v Sporting Ballymoney (Waveney 2); Woodside v Galgorm Blues (Wakehurst 2).
Clough Glasgow Rangers Supporters’ Club Sammy Moore Cup, second round, second leg: Rubys Rovers  v Southside Rangers ; Northend & District  v Templepatrick  (Dunfane 1).
firmus energy Division Three: Carniny Amateurs & Youth v Wakehurst Star (Showgrounds 7); Cullybackey Olympic v St Comgalls (Tober Park).