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Extra-time sucker punch made Irish Cup defeat all the harder to take, admits Ballymena captain Jim Ervin



Jim Ervin (left) in Friday's Irish Cup final

Jim Ervin (left) in Friday's Irish Cup final

Jim Ervin (left) in Friday's Irish Cup final

Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin believes it was a 'cruel way' to lose after his team were ambushed late on by Glentoran in Friday night's Sadler's Peaky Blinder Irish Cup Final.

Another penalty shoot-out appeared the most likely outcome as the clock ticked down to the end of 30 minutes of extra-time.

Paul O'Neill had shot the east Belfast side into a first-half lead, which was wiped out by a bullet header from Cathair Friel just after the interval.

But as the respective managers began to think about nominating potential spot-kick takers, substitute Ciaran O'Connor took off on a darting run into the box before crossing for Robbie McDaid, whose sweet left-foot shot flashed past goalkeeper Ross Glendinning.

It was a killer strike and one that the Braidmen had no time to recover from.

"We were gutted,'' says Ervin. "I thought we deserved more. It was so late into extra-time, we would even have settled for a penalty shoot-out - and anything can happen then.

"That's football. I know it's a well-used cliché, but we've got to move on and bounce back from it.''

Ervin believes the first-half stoppage for Adam Lecky to receive treatment disrupted United's momentum.

He adds: "There was very little between the sides. I thought we started off very bright, especially in the opening 20 minutes.

"When big Lecky went down injured, they (Glentoran) asked for the drinks break early. It worked for them. They obviously took on a few instructions from the touchline and soon after that, they got their opening goal. For a 10-minute spell they dominated, but we gradually eased our way back into it again.

"Getting the early goal in the second half was a big bonus for us and, for a time, the Glens were hanging on. It's disappointing to lose any game, but to lose a Cup Final right at the death was a tough one to take.

"I know penalties can also be a cruel way to lose, but for what we gave it was probably the least we deserved.

"We didn't hang about after the game. There are no showering facilities, so it was a case of getting back to our changing area, getting our stuff and getting out of there as quickly as possible. You don't want to hang about when you lose - especially a Cup Final.

"David Jeffrey had a quick word with us, stating he was proud of the way we performed and conducted ourselves. He knew we couldn't have given any more, we left everything out there on the pitch.

"He also said that sometimes in football, you don't get what you deserve.''

It was United's second Final defeat of the campaign after losing out to Cliftonville in January's County Antrim Shield decider - and Ervin reckons this one was even tougher to take.

"When we lost the Shield Final earlier in the season, the Reds scored two injury-time goals and the feeling on Friday night after McDaid scored was something similar, if not worse,'' he adds. "To lose any game late on is horrible, but that's football.

"We are not the only team to concede in the last couple of minutes and we'll not be the last. We just came up short when it mattered.

"It was an energy-sapping couple of days, going through another period of extra-time after what happened on Monday night in the Semi-Final against Coleraine.

"After being out for four months, I think the players of all four sides can take a great deal of credit. But it didn't make the defeat any easier to take.''

Belfast Telegraph