Belfast Telegraph

How a Saturday morning text led to teenage keeper becoming cup hero for Loughgall

Glenavon 1 Loughgall 2

By Adrian Rutherford

Craig Robinson wasn't even born the last time Loughgall reached an Irish Cup semi-final back in 1997.

He shouldn't have been playing against Glenavon on Saturday either.

Yet the 18-year-old goalkeeper was one of the unlikely stars of the village club's stunning win at Mourneview Park.

Behind every cup upset there is always a story, and here it was - Robinson.

The 18-year-old was called into action by a 10am text message on the morning of the game.

Gareth Buchanan, the regular number one, was unavailable, meaning Robinson was tasked with facing Glenavon.

Hours later, he produced the performance of his young life to help send Loughgall through.

"I've played a few times this season just when the other keeper has been injured, but I wouldn't be the regular starter," Robinson explained.

"But his wife is having their first baby today and he couldn't be here.

"I only heard this morning. Gareth wasn't sure himself whether he was going to make it or not.

"He had been named in the squad but he sent a message to our group chat this morning that he wouldn't make it.

"I got told around 10am that I'd be playing, so I just went out and did my best."

Robinson made a series of fine saves, denying Joel Cooper, Bobby Burns and Mark Sykes to frustrate Glenavon.

Loughgall had already beaten one Premiership side, knocking out Ards in the sixth round, but this was a much greater scalp.

They took the lead in the 40th minute - just after Gary Liggett had seen a penalty saved by Jonny Tuffey.

Peter Campbell's resulting corner was headed on to the far post, where right back Dale Montgomery was unmarked. He took a touch before hitting a powerful right-foot drive that crashed into the net.

When another chance came Liggett's way in the 79th minute, he finished well to make it 2-0.

A compelling cup tie delivered drama to the final whistle.

A touchline melee resulted in two unused substitutes - Loughgall's Stefan McMaster and Glenavon's Simon Kelly - seeing red before James Singleton pulled one back to set up a nervy finish.

Then, in stoppage time, Andrew Mitchell had a wonderful chance to level, but headed over from close range.

As the final whistle sounded, manager Dean Smith's joyous, fist-pumping celebrations showed what it meant to Loughgall.

Smith said: "Let's be clear - Glenavon are a fantastic team. We knew that to get anything from the game, we'd need to be on top of our game, and Glenavon would have to have a bit of an off-day, and thankfully it happened.

"For a Championship club to get to an Irish Cup semi-final is a massive achievement."

Montgomery, the scorer of the first goal, has played in the Premiership previously with Dungannon Swifts.

Now he is preparing for the biggest game of his career.

"We had nothing to lose. We came here, played our hearts out, and got the result," the right-back said.

The draw for the semi-final has yet to be made, but Montgomery has no preference on Loughgall's opponents.

"It doesn't matter to me who we get - we're going to be underdogs anyway," he added.

Liggett, meanwhile, believes Loughgall can do more than make up the numbers in the final four.

"We can trouble teams, 100%," he said. "We've got pace and energy, younger players with a few old heads. We've got a good balance, we're a close knit group and we can do anything on our day."

GLENAVON: Tuffey, McGrory (Doyle, 77 mins), Singleton, Marron, Burns, Daniels (Foley, 68 mins), Clingan, Marshall, Sykes (Griffin, 57 mins), Cooper, Mitchell. Unused subs: Kelly, Taylor, O'Mahoney, Norton.

LOUGHGALL: Robinson, Montgomery, Ballard, Copeland, Stewart (Neill, 72 mins), Dallas, McConnell, Ferguson, Liggett, Hoey (Moulen, 90 mins), Campbell (Ferris, 56 mins). Unused subs: McMaster, Rea, Stretton

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)

Man of the match: Mark Stewart

Match rating: 9/10

Belfast Telegraph

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