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Lynch calls for Cup dream to go on as Larne fight back to shock Ballymena

Ballymena Utd 1 Larne 2

By Stephen Alexander

Larne produced a stunning upset to reach the semi-finals of the Tennents Irish Cup with victory over Ballymena United.

Tiernan Lynch's men came from a goal down to defeat their local rivals at the Showgrounds and ensures two Championship sides will be in the last four of the competition.

"In the second half we needed to play better and pass the ball better," said Lynch.

"We are one game away from the final and I'm so proud of the players. They grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and got back to what they are good at. When they do that they are sensational.

"David (Jeffrey) congratulated us after the final whistle and wished us well in the semi-final.

"We're on an exciting journey and the fans were phenomenal again, like a 12th man."

After a scrappy opening 15 minutes, Ballymena carved out the first opening when Conor McCloskey's through ball put Fra McCaffrey in on the left hand side of the penalty area but he blazed his effort wide of Conor Devlin's near post.

McCaffrey was again off target on 25 minutes when McCloskey's low cross from the right wing found the midfielder at the near post but he could only miscue his effort wide.

It took Larne half an hour to create a meaningful opening as David Scullion's looping cross from the left forced Ross Glendinning to back-pedal to turn the ball over the bar.

After Larne had appeals for a penalty waved away after a handball claim, Ballymena broke the deadlock in virtually identical circumstances on 34 minutes when Johnny McMurray's shot was blocked by Chris Ramsey, with referee Andrew Davey adjudging that the former Cliftonville defender had used his arm.

Tony Kane sent Conor Devlin the wrong way from the spot kick to put the Sky Blues in front.

It could have been two shortly afterwards when a hanging cross from the right was only half cleared and the in-rushing McMurray fired a shot narrowly wide.

McMurray was again looking sharp as he fired his now trademark first time shot but his audacious effort sailed off target.

Larne stunned their Premiership opponents with a freakish equaliser on 52 minutes.

There appeared to be little danger from Marty Donnelly's cross from the left but Kyle Owens' attempted clearance sliced off the outside of his boot and ended up going past Glendinning via the inside of the post.

Ballymena responded as McCloskey volleyed through a ruck of players in the box but Devlin was able to save with his feet.

United spurned a big chance on 61 minutes when a slip by Paul Finnegan left Fra McCaffrey through on goal but, rather than go around the keeper, McCaffrey tried to place his effort and Devlin blocked with his body.

That miss proved costly for Ballymena as the visitors grabbed the lead on 67 minutes as Marty Donnelly's sumptuous cross was met with a glancing header by Thomas Stewart.

Larne managed to nullify Ballymena's attempts to find an equaliser with Kyle Owens' header saved by Devlin the best David Jeffrey's side could muster.

Belfast Telegraph

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