Ballymena United reach Irish Cup final after penalty shootout drama

Tue, Jul 28 2020

Ballymena United booked a spot in Friday's Irish Cup final after a 3-1 penalty shootout victory over Coleriane on Monday evening. 

It looked as if the Bannsiders were sailing into the showpiece thanks to an Eoin Bradley free-kick before Kenny Kane struck at the death for the Sky Blues to bring the game to extra-time. 

Coleriane had the ball in the net inside eight minutes as Stephen O'Donnell met a free-kick from Ben Doherty before he headed behind Sky Blues keeper Ross Glendinning but it was ruled out for offside.

The Bannsiders then were a whisker away from taking the lead a matter of moments later as Bradley met a Jamie Glackin corner but his bullet header was well tipped away by the goalkeeper. 

It was Oran Kearney's side that were putting on the pressure with Glackin causing Ballymena problems he went on the charge but his low cross was a whisker away from finding the feet of Doherty at the back-post. 

David Jeffrey's side had their first effort on 41 minutes as Adam Lecky played a superb reverse pass in behind the Coleriane defence for Cathair Friel but he fired his shot straight at Chris John's. 

John's was required into action a minute later as Tony Kane whipped in a free-kick but the keeper judged the flight of the ball well to claim. 

However, it was Coleriane who took the lead on the stroke of the interval as Jonny Addis brought down Stephen Lowry on the edge of the box, Bradley stepped up to take it before bending it into the corner of the net for his 19th career goal against the Sky Blues. 

Kearney's side started the second half on top and had a big chance to double their advantage when Josh Carson crossed for Doherty but he hit the post from close-range when he should have scored.

Coleriane were then dealt with a blow as Glackin was forced off due to injury as Glendinning came out as Carson looped a ball over the top to clear, as he headed the ball away he collided with Glackin who fell on his left-arm. 

Andy McGrory then had a rare sight of goal for Ballymena as on 66 minutes he fired in a low effort from range that was dealt with at ease by the diving John's. 

With ten minutes to go Bradley came close to sealing the victory for the Bannsiders as he hit the post from another free-kick situation he whipped the ball goal-wards before it cracked off the woodwork. 

There was then to be late drama as Ballymena drew level in the 94th minute when Kenny Kane touched the ball over the line at the back-post after Leroy Millar got in an initial effort which squirmed across the goal line for Kane to score. 

Coleriane then nearly instantly went up the other end to win the game as James McLaughlin’s long distance strike was tipped over the top by a superb reaction Glendinning save. 

It was Kearney's side who began extra-time on top as McLaughlin was played in before squeezing the ball into the net, but the flag was up chalking the goal off. 

McLaughlin was involved once again as he picked up the ball at the back-post but he blazed his effort over the crossbar when he should have hit the target. 

Ballymena had the final chance of the game as James Knowles swung a free-kick in but John's reacted well crashing through the bodies to punch the danger away. 

It's the second domestic final they've reached this season after meeting Cliftonville in January's County Antrim Shield final.