Killymoon Rangers 1 Glentoran 4
For most of last week Calum Birney was struggling to see out of his left eye.
A sickening clash of heads during Monday night’s 4-1 defeat by Cliftonville left him sporting quite a shiner — with the initial fears of a fractured eye socket thankfully unfounded.
There was nothing wrong with the 19-year-old centre-half’s vision by the time Saturday afternoon came around.
His fine volley gave the Glens the lead just three minutes into their tricky Irish Cup trip to Killymoon Rangers.
And when the Belfast Telegraph Championship 2 side threatened to cause an upset Birney and co. put the shutters up at the back, allowing Mark Clarke and Andy Waterworth to score in the closing stages to break the hearts of the battling Co Tyrone men and secure a tie against Bangor in the last 16.
After being the victims of a major upset last season, losing to Amateur League side Newington YC at this stage, it was all about getting through for the Glens and the result mattered an awful lot more than the performance.
“We knew it would be tough. We treated them with respect because they are a good side and you don’t just turn up to these places and play football, you need to earn the right,” said Birney.
“We got there in the end, but for a while it was a bit of a struggle.”
When Marcus Kane doubled the lead seconds before half-time it should have meant a comfortable victory for Eddie Patterson’s men; it was anything but.
This was cup football in its rawest form. A team from the third tier playing on their home patch against the big boys on a somewhat ageing and weather-beaten artificial pitch that proved to be a leveller — albeit in a smart and perfectly adequate council-owned facility.
Only a small number of those who paid in had the comfort of a seat, but nobody was short changed and when Killymoon made the Glens pay for a lacklustre start to the second half suddenly it was all to play for.
Gerry Moore’s delivery from the corner and Jason Ferry’s header on 62 minutes were both of Premiership quality, but the top flight fitness, pace and strength were what told in the end.
The Killymoon defence had given their all and the tank was virtually empty as Clarke was left on his own to head the third goal on 81 minutes, as was Waterworth when he rolled in the fourth in the 89th after Stephen Carson’s low cross.
“We were looking to get an early goal and kick-on from there,” said Birney.
“Thankfully it was me that got it — although usually they go over the stand!
“We got the second goal and then took the foot off the pedal a bit, they got the goal and they really came into it then and I think it was fitness that told in the end.
“The physio worked well with me, I struggled to see for a day or two, but it opened up on Friday for me to be able to play and I was just about able to see the ball coming for the goal.
“We all knew what happened against Newington last year, so it was all about coming here, getting the win and getting through to the next round — and we did the job.”