Dromara Village 1 Grove United 1
Grove won 7-6 on penalties
Grove United manager Ricky Beggs played the right psychology game in writing off his team’s chances of winning the Amateur League’s Border Cup.
He knew that would get the response needed for the Division 1A side to overcome Premier Section outfit Dromara Village full of former Irish League players.
And it worked a treat as Grove worked their socks off to take the silverware 7-6 in a penalty shootout at a bitterly-cold Seaview yesterday afternoon where the new all-weather pitch staged two other matches before the Border Cup decider.
After sharing a 1-1 scoreline at the end of extra-time, Grove kept their nerve to slot home their seventh penalty after keeper David Gibson saved from Village skipper James McDonagh.
United led 1-0 until three minutes from the end when McDonagh popped up with the equaliser, heading home John Douglas’ cross which Gibson failed to cut out.
At that point, Ricky was beginning to curse his luck.
“It is a long time since I last won it with Nortel and I had lost out in two semi-finals on penalties,” he said.
“I thought it was going to be one of those days again but thankfully, we got the result.
“They are a good bunch of lads who can play and know how to get stuck in when necessary and that was what they done here.
“Every one of them gave it 100 per cent and more and they deserved to reap the reward.”
He was correct in that assessment as Grove fought like tigers from beginning to end, none more so than man of the match and skipper Paul Hamilton.
It was a very competitive game and the technical skill displayed on both sides was highly commendable.
Grove should have gone ahead in the first half through Robert Young who fired wide when faced with only goalkeeper Liam Hartly to beat while Dromara were denied a penalty — the impressive Declan O’Connor being pulled back by Hamiton inside the box.
But the breakthrough came three minutes into the second half.
Mark Green nodded the ball over the top of defender Colin Beggs — who was another to put in a sterling display — before running round him and striking the ball past Hartley.
Grove were content to put up a solid defensive wall to hold on to that lead and it almost worked.
When a cross from O’Connor was headed over by Lee Doherty in the 69th minute, it looked as if Grove had done enough but it all came awry in the 87th minute when Douglas floated the ball deep into the six-yard box where Gibson failed to cut it out and could do nothing as it drifted towards James McDonagh at the far post. He was not going to waste the simple chance of nodding it home and didn’t.
Extra time failed to separate them and during that period, neither side hardly created a clear-cut chance.
The inevitability of penalties duly arrived and Dromara led the way by slotting home their first six courtesy of Feeney, O’Connor, Johnston, Douglas, Philip McDonagh and Thompson.
But Grove were equally positive and direct in their responses from Finn, Briers, Young, Collins, Hamilton and Beggs.
Strong nerves were needed as the sudden death continued and it was Gibson and Mark Green who emerged as the Shore Road heroes.
Gibson dived to his left to thwart skipper James McDonagh’s attempt to make it a bitter-sweet occasion for him.
This put Mark Green in the spotlight but the initial goalscorer kept his cool and stroked the ball into the corner of the net.
Dromara Village: Hartley, Drake, Doherty, J McDonagh, McNamee, G McDonagh, Douglas, Johnston, O’Connor, Feeney, Carson. Subs: O’Gorman for Carson (66 mins), P McDonagh for Doherty (71 mins), Thompson for McNamee (80).
Grove United: Gibson, Briers, Beggs, Allen, Hamilton, Young, Simpson, Green, Finn, Bright, Dickson. Subs: McKinely for Dickson (50).