GERRY Love hailed his Tummery Athletic players after they produced a thrilling second half comeback to defeat Willowbank 2-1 at Stangmore Park last night to reach an historic first ever Irish Junior Cup final.
A Christopher Heaney strike had given Willowback at half-time interval lead but second half goals by Cathal Beacom and Ruairi Sludden completed a stunning revival to set up a May Day Bank Holiday showdown with Bessbrook United, who were 3-1 victors over holders Enniskillen Rangers.
Tummery’s performance on the night was right out of the top drawer and no one was more delighted about that fact than Love.
“I said before the game I wanted an outstanding performance from every player and that’s what I got, they were absolutely outstanding,” he said.
“The half-time talk was easy – go out and deliver the same performance in the second half and I’ll be happy. I thought it was harsh to be one down at the break. We are a second half team and I knew we would get chances.
“And when you have got players like Ruairi Sludden you’re going to score. We have the quality in the final third but we had to play at pace.
“Tonight I’m delighted for the players, the backroom team, the whole squad who have worked hard to get here and especially those people who have come to watch us every Saturday. They now have something to look forward to – the Irish Junior Cup final at Windsor Park.”
Wednesday night’s encounter was an enthralling contest from the off with Tummery shading the verdict in the first half.
Yet the Dromore men found themselves 1-0 down at the break when Heaney broke forward to swap passes with striker Thomas McCrory on the right before firing low and hard across Athletic keeper Chris Catterson.
Tummery though responded in magnificant fashion and on 65 minutes Beacom drew the sides level with a glacing header from an Aidy McCaffrey cross.
That handed the momentum to the Fermanagh and Western representatives and six minutes from time Emmett McNabb ushered in Sludden on the right and the ace marksman hammered the ball into the far top corner of the net.
Goalscorers Beacom and Sludden may well hog the headlines but Tummery hadn’t a single bad player on the night. Their second half display was the complete performance, repeat that on Monday, May 6 and the Dromore men might well take some stopping.