Bring on big boys: Mark Holland
Kilmore Rec player-manager Mark Holland will have an opportunity to do battle with one of the Irish League clubs where he made his name, after his Kilmore Rec side booked their place in the Irish Cup fifth round draw for the second time in successive seasons.
However, the former Cliftonville and Lisburn Distillery striker appeared more relieved than ecstatic, following a spirited first half performance from Division 1B battlers Downshire YM that kept the Premier Division outfit on their toes.
He said: "Credit to Downshire, they started well, and there were a few sloppy performances from our boys in the first half... let's just say there were a few words said at half time, and thankfully things were better for us in the second half.
"I'm pleased for the lads because we were missing a few key players (Johnny Cheevers – work, Peter Casey – cup-tied, Peter Telford, Eoin Curran and Stephen Douglas – all injured), and all the pressure was on us... Downshire had nothing to lose.
"Getting back into the fifth round is a reward for all the players who have worked hard to get us there, and hopefully we can get a big draw to look forward to."
Of course, the Robert Adams Park side already have a Christmas date to count down to, with the Border Cup final against Albert Foundry at Seaview on December 27.
And while Holland, who has been out since the start of November after a hernia operation, has ruled himself out of contention for that one, he may be fighting fit in time for the fifth round, and would surely love another crack at his old club Cliftonville, following their gallant 2-0 quarter-final defeat against the Reds in last season's Irish Cup.
In any case, they will be glad to have closer to a full strength line-up, because even though Saturday's team eventually eased through, they certainly didn't have it all their own way.
That was largely down to Downshire, who started as they meant to go on, with two quick-fire chances in the first two minutes. It was the same two players involved in both instances, with Sean McCabe firstly firing in for Thomas Roy, whose header was saved, and then shot a volley just wide from another McCabe cross.
All the early momentum was with the hosts, and as an Andrew Miskimmon header fizzed over the bar and another from Gerald Tabb went wide, it seemed it was a matter of 'when' and not 'if' they took the lead.
Yet, entirely against the run of play, it was Kilmore who surged in front, in the 22nd minute. It was all thanks to an incisive Matthew Hardy which split the defence and found Sean Bell, who struggled to bring the ball under control, but laid back to Eoin Boyle who slotted home clinically from 25 yards.
This had been Kilmore's first clear-cut opportunity of the game, and it served as the perfect example of the importance of taking your chances when they happen to come along.
As it happened, Downshire were quick to learn the lesson, and responded within two minutes, with a Tabb looping header from a Lewis Irwin free-kick, leaving Mark Armstrong with no chance in the Kilmore goalmouth.
Holland's side could have taken the lead once again a few moments later, as a long-distance attempt looked every inch goal-bound, but Matthew Shaw stuck out a foot to direct the ball out for a corner.
No doubt Downshire left the pitch the happier team with the scores level, but that joy was short-lived, as the visitors regained the advantage just five minutes into the second half. Karl Lewis launched the ball somewhat speculatively, into the area, and Shaw, who seemed to have been caught wrong-footed, and with no opposing players near him, was unfortunate to guide a header into his own goal.
This was incredibly harsh on Downshire, who, up to this point, had belied the two-division gap separating these two teams, matching Kilmore on all fronts.
But going behind yet again seemed to have a notable impact on the side as a whole, and when Philip Traynor netted the third decisive goal in the 85th minute, it was fully deserved, after a much-improved showing from Kilmore over the second spell.
Reflecting on the game overall, Downshire boss Dan Thornton said: "I thought we were the better team in the first half, but they came out and played really well for the rest of the match.
"Conceding an own goal was a bit awkward, but we fought well, and I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, especially because were missing a few important players today, and four boys were cup-tied.
"Today was all about enjoying ourselves and seeing what happened. On another day, we could have had a bit more luck, or taken our chances a bit better, and the game could have been over in the first 20 minutes. But I am happy enough – I can't complain."