Cherry Orchard took on County Antrim in the Supercup NI Vase semi-final at a rain soaked Anderson Park in Coleraine. It was the side from County Antrim who started the better as Connor Farrelly was played in by Samuel Ervine. Ervine was denied by a good save from Orcahrd keeper Harry Clarke, who is also the current Republic of Ireland under fifteen stopper. Orchard’s first chance arrived in the eleventh minute, when Sean Madden hit a sweet strike from range the ball sailing just wide of the target.
County Antrim were sniffing blood in the Orchard defence and they nearly had the ball in the net as Jack Herons cross was well dealt with by Izzy Dezu, just as Lewis McGarvey was going to pounce like a tiger to head home.
The game was swaying from one end of the pitch to another and it was the turn of the team from Dublin to threaten when Hugh Torfeldt was played in. He nicked the ball around County Antrim keeper Conor Hitchen but could only manage to drag his shot wide.
Orchard were then gifted a penalty as Torfeldt was taken down inside the area. Up stepped Madden, but he fired wide of the target. This was a big let off for County Antrim and they had two chances in quick succession as Ethan Galbraith fired wide after a lovely interchange with Conor McGonigle. On the stroke of the interval Farrelly thought he had put the side in Yellow ahead but his strike was well deflected over the crossbar from Orchard defender Sean Mahon.
Cherry Orchard started the second half very much on top and inside seconds of the second period were nearly ahead when Hitchin made a great reaction save to deny Lewis Kilkenny from six yards out.
County Antrim themselves however went straight up the other end and could have gone ahead themselves as Heron was played in at the back post but he miscued his effort firing wide of the upright.
The first goal wasn’t far away, with both sides creating chances and it finally did arrive midway through the second half as Orchard took the lead through a stunning Marc Walsh volley from inside the box after County Antrim failed to clear their lines the strike leaving Hitchin with no chance of saving.
County Antrim however were level a matter of minutes later through substitute John McGreevy as he was left unmarked at the back-post and he made no mistake in firing it past the onrushing goalkeeper.
It was then to be a double blow for Cherry Orchard as County Antrim took the lead two minutes later when Lewis McGarvey rose like a salmon to head home a corner to send their bench into raptures. Hichin then had to be alert to stop Cherry Orchard squaring the tie up as he made a fine save to stop a powerful Liam McFadden shot.
It was all one way traffic at this point with Cherry Orchard pressing, boxing County Antrim in and they should have been level as Sobe Nwaokolo fired wide at the back post from a pinpoint Andrew Farrell cross .
It was then the turn of the woodwork to deny an equaliser when Kevin O’Reilly’s sharp turn on the edge of the box got him into a promising shooting position but his strike struck the top of the bar sailing over the top.
O’Reilly was leading the Orchard charge for an equaliser and he thought he had it in the last minute as he headed just wide from close range from a sweeping Kilkenny free-kick.
However the drama wasn’t finished there as Orchard were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time when McGarvey tugged down Nwaokolo up stepped O’Reily and he made no mistake in firing the ball low into the corner of the net.
This was how it was to end, the game would have to be decided on the dreaded penalty shoot-out and it was Harry Clarke who was the hero for Orchard as he successfully kept out Farrelly to book his sides place in the final of the vase.
By Josh Bunitng