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Trainor hails late heroics as Crumlin Star book Windsor Park date

Crumlin Star’s Aidan and Joe McNeill close down Stuart Mallen of Banbridge Rangers during Tuesday night’s Intermediate Cup semi-final at Holm Park in Armagh Crumlin Star’s Aidan and Joe McNeill close down Stuart Mallen of Banbridge Rangers during Tuesday night’s Intermediate Cup semi-final at Holm Park in Armagh
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By Paddy Tierney

IFA Intermediate Cup semi-final
Crumlin Star 3
Banbridge Rangers 2

CRUMLIN STAR booked a trip to Windsor Park next month following a dramatic late victory against Banbridge Rangers in Tuesday night’s Intermediate Cup semi-final at Holm Park.

The game looked destined for extra-time after Josh Cahoon pounced to level the game at 2-2 when Crumlin Star goalkeeper failed to collect Stuart Mallen’s free kick on 72 minutes.

However, the Star subsequently pressed hard for the winner with midfielder Joe McNeill forcing a series of later corners – the last of which saw substitute Barry McKervey cross into the box for striker James Doyle to bag his second goal to send his side into the showpiece decider.

As his players celebrated on the pitch after the final whistle, manager Paul Trainor paid tribute to his team’s renowned fighting spirit.

“What do you say? They do things the hard way,” said Trainor.

“We gave away two bad goals, but they kept plugging away. They don’t know when they are beaten. That’s happened us on three or four occasions this season and they keep at it. They are unreal.”

It was Banbridge who made the brighter start to last night’s semi-final in Armagh with Cahoon firing them into an early lead.
Some poor defending from Crumlin Star meant they failed to clear their lines allowing, Jordan Hayes and Mallen to nudge the ball towards Cahoon, who beat Harrison with a fine, crisp strike on eight minutes.

Indeed, it was backs against the wall stuff for the Star in the opening stages with both Brendan O’Neill and Niall Hawkins making good clearances to deny the always lively Mallen.

Crumlin Star’s best chance to equalise fell to Kevin Trainor, but he fired wide of the post following a good cross from O’Neill.

Patrick McIlkenny then went close just moments later as the North Belfast men began to find their groove and Doyle looked to have a great chance when played through by Gary Lavery, but the flag went up for an offside call which looked very dubious.

At the other end, Cahoon crashed a shot off the crossbar, but chances were beginning to dry up for Rangers.

In the end, it took a howler from Banbridge ’keeper Bryan McMullan to gift Star an equaliser. Having strayed far from his goal, McMullan gave possession away to McIlkenny, who kept his composure superbly to curl the ball over the head of the retreating McMullan from the best part of 50 yards to level affairs.

The second half was only seven minutes old when Crumlin Star took the lead. An excellent cross from Joe McNeill found Doyle in the box and the striker didn’t hesitate – his first-time effort gave McMullan no chance.

Star could have made it 3-1 moments later when Aidan McNeill set up Lavery for a shot on goal, but his effort crashed into the side netting.

Banbridge thought they had equalised approaching the hour mark, but Cahoon was correctly called back for offside.

It was only temporary reprieve for the North Belfast outfit, however, as the Armagh men struck decisively midway through the second half when Mallen was awarded a free kick 35 yards from goal.

The midfielder’s effort was well-struck and ‘keeper Shane Harrison could only knock the ball into the path of Cahoon, who tucked away his second of the night to tie the game at 2-2.

As full time crept near, Crumlin Star had a glorious chance to retake the lead when Joe McNeill attempted to lob McMullan from just outside the box. The ’keeper got a despairing hand to the ball, but could only divert it out to Doyle, who took a touch and fired back across the goal. The striker could hardly believe his eyes as Christopher Chambers made a stunning goal-line clearance to deny the Star.

Yet Trainor’s men continues to press for a winner and they were rewarded two minutes into injury time when McKervey’s corner found Doyle, who beat McMullan with a fine strike to spark wild celebrations among the travelling Crumlin Star faithful.

CRUMLIN STAR: S Harrison, B O’Neill, A McNeill, N Hawkins, C Burns, J McNeill, P McIlkenny (C Murphy 94mins), K Trainor, J Doyle, G Lavery (B McKervey 75mins), N Halfpenny (M Lyons 60mins).

BANBRIDGE RANGERS: B McMullan; R Gregg, J Hayes, C Cousins, S Mallen, M Hazley, J Cahoon, M Holloway, N Baird, C Chambers (B Johnston 92mins, S Ward.

REFEREE: S McGonigle.

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