McKinney doubles up to end the Braidmen's reign
Ballymena Utd 1 Ards 2
Joe McKinney hit a double as Ards ended Ballymena United's defence of the Toals County Antrim Shield with a 2-1 victory at the Showgrounds. The frontman, who has enjoyed a superb debut season at senior level since stepping up from the Amateur League, scored in each half to send Niall Currie's side into the semi-finals.
Ballymena came close to opening the scoring inside two minutes when Tony Kane's in-swinging free-kick was glanced goalwards but former United defender Michael Ruddy was alert to head clear on the line.
At the other end, Ross Glendinning had to be alert to keep out McKinney's close-range volley and the visitors came even closer to breaking the deadlock on 13 minutes when defender Stuart McMullan's header from a free-kick cannoned off the base of the post before being cleared to safety.
Ards keeper Aaron Hogg produced two stunning saves inside a minute to maintain the scoreless stalemate, firstly diving to his left to deflect Stephen McBride's volley behind, then from the resulting Tony Kane corner, springing to his left to claw away Caolan Loughran's powerful header.
And those saves proved even more vital as Ards grabbed the lead on 28 minutes.
McKinney collected the ball in the left-hand channel and cut back inside onto his right foot before firing a low shot into the bottom corner for a superb individual goal.
Ards came close to a second on 34 minutes when McMullan's header back across goal was headed towards the net by Carl McComb, forcing Glendinning into a sharp save.
David Jeffrey's men struggled to find any sort of rhythm and Ards doubled their advantage on 57 minutes.
Again there appeared to be little imminent danger as Ards played a hopeful long ball forward.
Goalkeeper Glendinning and defender Loughran, however, hesitated near the edge of the penalty area and McKinney nipped in between them to steer the ball into the empty net and double Ards' advantage.
Ballymena gave themselves a glimmer of hope with a minute left when Conor McCloskey's industry took him to the byline and his low cross was bundled home by Allan Jenkins, but the Sky Blues couldn't fashion an equaliser as their reign as County Antrim Shield holders came to a tame end.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Ervin, Owens, Loughran, McBride (E Kane 67), T Kane, Jenkins, McCloskey, Faulkner, Friel, Lowry (Henderson 67). Subs not used: McCauley, Flynn, Wallace.
Ards: Hogg, Brennan, Friars, McMullan, Ruddy, McCullough, Tommons, McMillan, McKinney, McComb, Liggett (Douglas 60). Subs not used: Arthurs, Keke, Taylor, Rea.
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor).