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Ballymena United 2 Warrenpoint 1

By Billy Weir

As Alan Davidson celebrated by reaching to the leaden skies above the Showgrounds, he could have been forgiven for lifting up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Why Always Me?’

The Ballymena United midfielder and Irish Cup drama seem to go hand in hand but this time around it was a happy ending for the Sky Blues who won to set up a home tie with Coleraine — although in a neat plot twist that Liam Neeson would have been proud of, Davidson broke the hearts of some of his nearest and dearest.

Neeson will soon be back in his home town to be made a Freeman of the Borough but after a rightful place in the sixth round draw was taken from them by Warrenpoint native Davidson, the town over-looked by the Mournes is unlikely to bestow any similar honour on the midfielder.

Last season Davidson made his debut for United in the Irish Cup, scoring the winner, ironically against a Newry City team that has since folded and seven of whom were in the Warrenpoint panel, but it later transpired that he hadn’t been registered in time and the Sky Blues were thrown out of the competition.

This time though his paperwork was all present and correct and with impeccable timing he came off the bench to finish off the Championship One outfit’s wonderfully energetic and at times mesmerising fight with a rapier like thrust of a right foot for a goal that was a dagger through the hearts of Barry Gray’s men two minutes from time.

Shane Dolan had given United a 25th minute lead, sub Keith Johnston levelling in the 71st minute with his first touch.

It sets United up with that mouth-watering, money-spinning derby extravaganza against old foes Coleraine but it was his old pals that Davidson was probably best avoiding on Saturday night when he returned home.

“It was good obviously to score the winning goal against my home town but, truth be told, Warrenpoint possibly deserved to go through,” admitted Davidson.

“They played a lot better football than us throughout the game but just didn’t manage to put the ball in the net which was lucky for us,” he added.

And there was no question of no celebrations for the midfielder after his superb strike secured a home date on February 9.

“Oh no, I threw my hands up anyway — I always celebrate a goal no matter who it’s against,” he said with a broad beaming smile before reflecting on his roller-coaster Sky Blue career thus far.

“There hasn’t been a dull moment yet,” he added.

“First game last season in the quarter-final I scored the winning goal and then got fired out.

“This year we won the Co Antrim Shield and I scored the winning penalty and now against half the Newry team I scored the winning goal so there have been plenty of ups and some downs.

“I don’t know if we thought we were just going to come out and roll over a Championship side but I knew that wasn’t going to happen,” he said.

“I warned them that they were very good technically and they proved that.”

That will bring little comfort though to Gray and his troops who have ambitions of rubbing shoulders with the bigger boys by gaining promotion to the Premiership sooner rather than later.

“For us we take the positives out of it as it gives us a good indication where we are with our panel and players against very experienced Premiership opposition and I think we can take more plusses than negatives,” he commented.

As for the draw, United boss Glenn Ferguson was diplomatic, but it will be the talk of the two towns for the next few weeks.

“There will be a lot of hype and a lot of build-up to it but it’s probably easier to say it’s just another game and basically it is,” he said.

“We’ll get another good gate and hopefully a better performance,” he added.

“But it’s a cup game and anything can happen.”

No doubt, a certain Mr Davidson may have a say in that.

Belfast Telegraph


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