Irish Cup memories from 1991

Omagh Town centre-back Paul Doherty strides away from Portadown forward Stevie Cowan

Omagh Town centre-back Paul Doherty strides away from Portadown forward Stevie Cowan

GIVEN that the weekend just past was dominated by the fifth round of the Tennents Irish Cup I thought I’d take a delve into the UH archives to see if I could dig up something that would coincide with the theme of the  day.
The year I picked out was 1991, the date Saturday, January 19th. That was hugely significant occasion for both Omagh Town and Ballinamallard United football clubs.
A game against Ballymena United at St Julian’s Road marked Town’s first fifth round Irish Cup tie since becoming a senior Irish League club while, for the Mallards, who had replaced neighbours Omagh in the old B Division – and no Whitey Anderson wasn’t the manager back then – they faced the might of Glentoran in front of 2, 000 supporters at Ferney Park.
Needless to say the Glens ran out comfortable 4-0 winners, although it was an own goal by Omagh man Rodney Donaldson that helped them on their way before John Devine, Terry Moore and Stephen Douglas, side-footing home a George Neil cross – now there’s an Irish League legend if ever there was one – all scored in the second half.
That Ducks team included the likes of goalkeeper John McClean, David McCaskie, John Quinn, Gary Armstrong. Julian Nixon, Robbie Benson, Alan Roxborough, the late Greg Turley and, none other than, Gordy Lee, he who now holds the purse strings of the Fermanagh and Western League. He, too, had hair!
Meanwhile back at St Julian’s it was all happening. Another Donaldson, Mark from the Derg, had given Town, managed by Paul McAnea, an early lead with a glancing header after just 85 seconds.
That goal though was wiped out by Ballymena goal king Dessie Loughery, yet another Irish League legend who went on to become a top referee and, more recently, a photographer specialising in wildlife. There’d be no shortage of that in Limavady (his hometown)!
Less than 60 seconds later Seamus Bonner, himself no slouch in front of goal, restored Omagh’s goal advantage.
According to the report in the Ulster Herald, dated Saturday, January 25th, up to that point Town had been the better team. It read, “The Donnelly brothers – that’s Liam and Mark – dominated midfield while Bonner, Donaldson and Kavanagh (Eamonn) made a forceful impression up front.
“Paul McMullan (Tootie) was enjoying one of his better games” but that wasn’t the case for goalkeeper Paul McGread and McMullan’s defensive partner Paul Doherty. The report recorded McGread was “well below par” while ‘Doc’, from  Strabane, had uncharacteristically “many anxious moments.”
On 61 minutes Sammy Smith levelled for Ballymena and from that moment on the report stated that the Braidmen “flexed their muscles”.
However it was to be Town and Bonner’s day.
Five minutes from time the big striker “stooped bravely amidst a forest of legs and bodies to head home the fifth goal of the match after Liam Donnelly floated in a crucial free kick.”
Town had done it as their fans looked forward to a sixth round clash against a resurgent Portadown.
That tie took place at Shamrock Park on February 16th and there ended the fairytale. The Ports ran out 3-1 victors with goals from the triumvirate of Paul Doolin, Joey Cunningham and Scottish born Stevie Cowan, that after Kavanagh had fired the Tyrone visitors into an early lead.
According to the match report, Town stopper Paul McGread was more like his old self. “Several point blank saves by Omagh’s No 1 throughout the first half from Roy McCreadie, Sandy Frazer, Doolin and Cowan brought gasps of almost disbelief from the large support.”
A week later the Ports defeated Town 5-2 in the league and went on to be crowned Smirnoff Irish League champions.
Was it any wonder? Their team that day was – M Keenan; P Major; I Curliss; J Cunningham; B Strain; A Stewart; P Doolin; R McCreadie; S Frazer; S Cowan; G Davidson.
The Omagh Town team which defeated Ballymena wasn’t half bad either – P McGread; D McColgan; P McMullan; D Ming; P Doherty; L Donnelly; M Donnelly; J Crilly, S Bonner; M Donaldson; E Kavanagh. Subs: D Ballard for McMullan; M Doherty for Donaldson.
And one final thought.
Four months later McCreadie was appointed Town boss and by the end of the year Omagh had famously won the Budweiser Cup by defeating Linfield 3-1 at the Oval.

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