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Scott nets double to set up derby date for Friends'

Friends' Lisburn 4 Banbridge Academy 2

Duel: Friends’ Conor Quinn battles Banbridge’s Jamie McArdle
Duel: Friends’ Conor Quinn battles Banbridge’s Jamie McArdle

By John Flack

Friends' set up a repeat of the 2013 McCullough Cup final as they earned a date with local rivals Wallace High as Harry Scott hit two of the goals in a hard-fought win over Banbridge Academy in the second half of yesterday's double-bill at Lisnagarvey.

The Lisburn outfit, who lost the decider six years ago after a penalty shoot-out, had looked in almost total control as they established a 2-0 interval lead.

However, in typically determined fashion, Banbridge fought back superbly after the break to draw level before conceding twice in the final quarter of an enthralling contest.

Friends' coach Craig Cunningham is naturally looking forward to a chance to avenge that defeat by Wallace in 2013 as his team chase their first triumph in the competition since 1980, having also lost the 2017 decider to Sullivan Upper.

However, he admitted Banbridge had caused him a lot of anxious moments in the second-half as he watched the nail-biting contest from the dug-out.

Cunningham said: "I thought the boys played extremely well in the first-half, but even when we went 2-0 up, I knew Banbridge would come back at us strongly and that's how it turned out.

"All credit to them for their comeback but, luckily, we managed to get the job done in the end.

"Obviously it's great to be back in the final again and it should be a great game between two sides who know each other pretty well.

"Quite a few of the boys play regularly against each other at club level and are friends off the pitch, so that can only add extra spice to the occasion."

Friends' stamped their authority on the game from the outset and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 17th minute as Scott bundled his way into the danger area before slotting home the opener.

Ten minutes later, the lively striker was denied a second goal when his fierce shot was well saved by Bann keeper Elliott Haw.

Two minutes from half-time, Friends' co-captain Oliver Kidd doubled the lead with a cracking backhand shot which flew low into the corner of the net.

But the Academy came out with all guns blazing after the break and within five minutes of the restart pulled a goal back when Edward Rowe scrambled the ball home from close-range.

In the last few seconds of the third quarter, Friends' failed to clear their lines and Charlie Rowe fired in the equaliser from just inside the circle.

Friends' must have grateful for the time-out as they were under the cosh at that stage, but they managed to regroup and Mackenzie Connor made it 3-2 from close-in with 13 minutes left, and then Scott smashed in the insurance goal with a brilliant backhand shot near the end.

Meanwhile, there was also disappointment for the Banbrdige Academy girls' team who lost 1-0 to Rainey in the Superleague final at Stormont, where Charlotte Beggs hit a late winner for the Magherafelt side.

Friends': Ryan Kilpatrick; Ross Little, Matthew Thompson, Conor Irwin, Oliver Kidd (co-capt.), Rory Brown (co-capt.), Matthew Aughey, Jamie Anderson, Conor Quinn, Mackenzie Connor, Harry Scott. Subs: Joel Whitten, Scott Patterson, Jack Simpson, Harry Archbold, Ben Aughey, Christopher Leckey.

Banbridge Academy: Elliott Haw; Jamie McArdle, Harry Lockhart, Lewis Groves, Mark Cowan, Louis Rowe, Charlie Rowe, Matthew McKee, Matthew McClimonds, Luke McConnell, Edward Rowe (capt.). Subs: Luke Watt, Tommy Dobson, Alex Jordan, Cody Large, Seb Best.

Umpires: Jamie Aiken, Les Allen

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