Darren cast as Albert Foundry hero
Albert Foundry 6-1 St Mary's
Albert Foundry struck a blow for the Amateur League Premier Division's claim as the top intermediate division outside of the Belfast Telegraph Championship, with a resounding 6-1 win over St Mary's in the Irish Cup third round on Saturday.
Darren McCombe hit a hat-trick in he victory over the newly-promoted Mid Ulster Intermediate A side that puts Foundry only one result away from the fifth round, and the potential dream draw against one of the Danske Bank Premiership sides.
Yet winning manager Colin McIlwaine is staying typically grounded and will ensure his players do the same as they take things one step at a time.
"We're not even there yet," he said after Saturday's game. "Ask me about it again if we win in the next round."
And he continued the measured theme when it came to assessing the performance that eased them through to round four.
"I felt we were comfortable with 3-0 at half time," continued McIlwaine, "but we got sloppy after that.
"That was disappointing, because I know what these players are capable of, but I thought we showed great character to score the other three after conceding."
On a dull and dreary afternoon, Foundry supporters got a first goal to cheer just 18 minutes into the match. It was a slick move, too, with Barry Bloomer chipping the ball over the defence to Darren McCombe, who in turn scooped it over Martin Savage's reaches.
The St Mary's keeper didn't allow conceding an early goal to dishearten him, and came out well to punch away from a dangerous Darren McCombe free kick shortly after.
Foundry pushed on for a second goal, and when Stuart Doyle was brought down 25 yards from goal, it provided him with an excellent opportunity to double the margin, but he squandered it with a well wide set-piece attempt.
Darren McCombe looked as though he may add his name to the scoresheet a second time, but Paul Kelly slid in with a stunning challenge.
At this stage, St Mary's still harboured some hope of gaining a foothold in the game, and while they had much less attacking possession than their opponents, they got forward when they could.
Probably their best chance of the half came in the 34th minute, as substitute Michael O'Hehir broke through, but this time it was John Burns' turn to slide in.
The rain-soaked conditions may be what many defenders view as ideal for football, but they also increase the level of risk - and when Ryan Murphy brought down William McCombe inside the box in the 41st minute, St Mary's feared the worst.
However, when William McCombe tucked the ball in from the spot, that wasn't as bad as it was going to get for the men from Portadown.
Indeed, it was only beginning, and matters began to unravel when Gerard Kerr was dispossessed immediately from the restart, and when the ball was launched into Darren McCombe on a quick counter, he was happy to poke in.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for St Mary's. They did manage to register a goal of their own in the 58th minute, after Ian West (left) was given his marching orders when he was adjudged to have pulled back O'Hehir in the area.
Foundry's Stephen Cairnduff deserves credit for not only saving O'Hehir's penalty, but his subsequent follow-up. However, fortunately for the Mid Ulster side, Sean Brady was on hand to bundle the ball over the line.
The St Mary's goalscorer was a genuine positive to take from an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the away side, and had he struck either side of the keeper rather than straight at him 10 minutes later, it may have been a very different finale.
Instead, Foundry went on to fill their boots. With 20 minutes remaining, Paul Atchison burst down the left wing, and sent a pass through to Bloomer, who rounded a defender then proceeded to send a flick over the head of Savage.
The hosts weren't finished. A deflected Atchison shot found the net in the 77th minute and when Marc Davidson gifted Darren McCombe a goalscoring opportunity, the Foundry sharp-shooter gratefully accepted, tapping in for his hat-trick.
To confound things even further for the visitors, Kelly's dissent between those two last goals earned him his second yellow and a subsequent red card.
Needless to say, the day hadn't gone quite how St Mary's manager Kevin Bates might have liked.
He remarked: "Where did we go wrong? Well, we defended poorly, we didn't play well, and we conceded soft goals. It was a bit embarrassing.
"You prepare all week to do better, and then that happens. But we did well to make it to the third round, and have only just come up from Intermediate B, so it is all a big step up for us. We will move on from this."
MAN OF THE MATCH: Darren McCombe (Albert Foundry). He is awarded this accolade along with the match ball after his stunning hat-trick.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Barry Bloomer's nonchalant 70th-minute finish had to be seen in the flesh to be appreciated.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Stephen Cairnduff's double save from Michael O'Hehir's penalty and rebound... despite conceding soon after.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: When St Mary's squandered possession from the restart to virtually hand Foundry their third goal.