The quarter-finals of the Tennent’s Irish Cup took place on Friday and Saturday and if people are saying the magic of the cup is dead they clearly haven’t been to Northern Ireland. Of the eight teams that made it to this stage, three came from outside the top flight (Ballinamallard United, Larne and Larne Tech Old Boys) and of the five teams representing the Premiership. Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town would traditionally be considered as bottom-six sides.

Let’s start by looking back on what was billed as the tie of the round going into the weekend and it didn’t disappoint.

Larne 3 Coleraine 5

Barring the unlikely, the next time these two sides meet it will be a Premiership match with the hosts all but certain of promotion from the Championship at this stage, and they gave us a great taste of things to come.

Inver Park was bouncing in front of the BBCNI cameras and it was Tiernan Lynch’s men that started brightly and took the lead in the 21st minute when former Coleraine striker David McDaid was on hand to capitalise on some suspect goalkeeping by Chris Johns. And it was the same man that made it 2-0 on the 30-minute mark when he converted Ben Tilney’s cross from close range.

Coleraine improved considerably after the break and got themselves back in the game on the hour-mark when Eoin Bradley cut Larne’s lead in half. Bradley levelled things up in the 82nd minute when he scored from the penalty spot after Stephen Lowry was fouled.

There was still time for more drama though and Coleraine had been level for less than two minutes when McDaid put Larne in front again, completing his hat-trick in the process, only for Jamie McGonigle to equalise for the Bannsiders a second time when he hammered the ball past Larne ‘keeper, Conor Devlin. This gave us another thirty minutes of extra-time to look forward to.

Extra-time proved to be a step too far for the Championship champions-elect and Ben Tilney suffered the misfortune of scoring an own-goal early in the second half to put the Premiership side ahead. And McGonigle made sure of the win five minutes from time to send the holders of the competition one step closer to retaining the trophy.

Crusaders 3 Ballymena United 0

With Crusaders sitting 14 points off the top of the Premiership and eight games remaining, the Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield are the North Belfast sides’ only realistic chance of silverware this season. They came up against a Ballymena United side whose title hopes also seem to be looking slightly slimmer.

The home side were on the front foot from the off on Saturday and went close through Declan Caddell and David Cushley before the latter showed some fine skill in the 21st minute to find Jordan Forsythe, who put the Crues ahead at the back post.

It only took the Crues three minutes to double their lead and former United man Cushley was involved again, playing in Jordan Owens who managed to beat Sky Blues ‘keeper Ross Glendenning. A bad ten minutes got even worse for United in the 29th minute when Billy Joe Burns’ cross was caught in the wind and flew over Glendenning and into the goal making it 3-0 with less than half-an-hour played.

With the game all but over at half-time, the second half produced little action at either end with Stephen Baxter’s side already having done enough to get into the hat for the semi-finals.

Dungannon Swifts 2 Ballinamallard 2 (Ballinamallard United won 2-3 on penalties)

Harry McConkey’s Ballinamallard side are now the only non-Premiership team left in the competition and they certainly earned their place in the last four. Dungannon went into the half-time break with their noses in front thanks to a Seanan Clucas strike but Jason McCartney did hit the Swifts woodwork. McCartney made no mistake the second time around as he managed to get his name on the scoresheet in the second half to send the game into extra-time.

In extra-time, the Swifts regained their lead through Ally Teggart but the Mallards were in no mood to roll over for their Premiership counterparts and equalised for a second time when Ryan Campbell headed home Joshua McIlwaine’s cross. Unlike Friday night, there was nothing to separate the sides and the game went to penalties.

In the shootout, Richard Clarke, Chris Kelly, and McIlwaine scored for the Mallards whose goalkeeper John Connolly managed to save Dungannon’s first penalty. David Armstrong’s effort struck the bar to send the Fermanagh outfit into the Irish Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history.

Warrenpoint Town 3 Larne Tech. OB 1

Stephen McDonnell’s Warrenpoint side comfortably negotiated a potential banana-skin fixture. But they did have a nervy start to the game when on-loan Chelsea ‘keeper, Jared Thompson lost possession before managing to recover to deny Craig Todd from giving the Larne outfit an early and surprising lead.

That was in the second minute and two minutes, later Point were in front when Simon Kelly scored from the penalty spot after Marc Griffin had been fouled.

Kelly added his and the home side’s second early in the second half before Sean Ward halved the deficit. The Amateur League outfit did look capable of equalising at times but Kelly scored in injury-time to complete his hat-trick and wrap up the win.

The draw for the semi-finals took place on Saturday evening and looks like this:

Crusaders v Coleraine
Warrenpoint Town v Ballinamallard United

The matches will be played on Saturday 30 March with venues still to be confirmed.

While all this was going on, there was one Danske Bank Premiership game taking place as Cliftonville made the trip to Mourneview Park to take on Glenavon in a rearranged fixture. Conor McMenamin and Ryan Curran goals were enough to see the visitors come away with the three points to leave the league table looking like this:

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Linfield 30 22 5 3 63 19 44 71
2 Ballymena United 29 19 5 5 63 37 26 62
3 Crusaders 30 18 3 9 58 41 17 57
4 Glenavon 30 14 9 7 56 40 16 51
5 Cliftonville 30 15 3 12 59 51 8 48
6 Coleraine 30 13 9 8 47 40 7 48
7 Institute 29 10 5 14 43 56 -13 35
8 Glentoran 30 9 7 14 45 46 -1 34
9 Dungannon Swifts 30 8 9 13 35 49 -14 33
10 Warrenpoint Town 30 7 7 16 36 63 -27 28
11 Ards 30 4 5 21 24 54 -30 17
12 Newry City 30 4 5 21 21 54 -33 17


That’s it from me for now but if you want more, you can check out Keith O’Dwyer’s latest League of Ireland (LOI) roundup HERE, Keith Fitzsimmons tips for the LOI title race HERE, Henry’s take on modern-day football supporters HERE, Adrian’s review on all things Carrick HERE and a whole host of articles right here on our website.