(Harps won 4-3 on pens)
STRATHROY Harps manager Benny McElholm was somewhere between bewilderment and a state of shock following this extraordinary first round Irish Junior Cup tie at St Gerard’s School in Belfast.
The meeting with Tullymore Swifts was selected as the Official Tie of the Round and it certainly lived up to that billing in spadefuls.
Harps sprinted out of the blocks with goals from the outstanding Tommy Murphy (2), Sean McDonagh, Tony Quinn and Caolan McCrossan leaving the twice winners all but home and hosed having established a 5-0 lead by the half-time interval.
However Strathroy never showed up in the second half and that combined with the awarding of, not one, but two dubious penalties saw the hosts incredibly score five times without reply to send the tie into added time.
McCrossan then netted his second to make it 6-5 but two minutes from the end of extra-time Harps net-minder Thomas Antczak fumbled the ball into his own net to leave the outcome to be decided on the lottery of penalties.
At that stage McElholm was beginning to think that Lady Luck had deserted his team but his players held their nerve to win 4-3 with Sean McCrory converting the winning spot-kick.
It had been a breathless encounter and shortly afterwards the Harps boss was still trying to make sense of an “unbelievable” cup-tie.
“It had everything,” he said.
“First half we terrorised them and could have been eight, nine goals up. Tommy Murphy was wreaking havoc with his pace and power, he scored two cracking goals. Wee Sean McDonagh came in from the left to finish and Caolan McCrossan’s was a real team goal. That goal summed up how good we had been.
“Second half was a litany of schoolboy errors and some poor refereeing. In fairness they came at us but we were so poor. It’s not acceptable how poor we were.
“Ultimately we got across the line but only just.
“The performance summed up where we are at at the minute. We haven’t played a full 90 minutes since I arrived. We have been very good in patches. We’re on a steep learning curve.
“In fairness to the players they did show a lot of character in extra-time.I can’t remember being involved in a game quite like it,” he said
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