Banbridge have finally overcome their Dublin hoodoo by ousting defending champions Three Rock Rovers from the Irish Senior Cup.
The Havelock Park side have come acropper against sides from the Irish capital in recent years but on Saturday, they got it right as goals from Jamie Wright and two from Stephen Dowds sent them into the semis thanks to a 3-1 home win.
Banbridge supporters have waited a long time for an Irish Senior Cup quarter-final at Havelock Park and what better opposition could there be than last year’s winners.
Injuries affected both squads with four international players; Eugene Magee, Owen Magee and Drew Carlisle for Banbridge and Stephen West for TRR sitting the game out.
Three Rock started the stronger of the two sides with the Bann defensive line being tested early. A triple save from Gareth Lennox demonstrated that he had brought his A game, instilling confidence throughout the Bann team.
Much of the first half play was confined to the midfield, however great skill from Stephen Dowds and Jody Hosking saw both sides smash reverse stick chances over the crossbar.
The deadlock was finally broken after an excellent early pass from Matthew Bell found Neil Gilmore behind the TRR defensive line. Neil then fired back post for a superb first time finish by Jamie Wright. The former Portadown men showed the crowd just why Mark Tumilty had forced a move during the summer transfer window.
Bann went in one up at the break but, against such a strong side, they were always going to have to work for the win.
Bann looked to double their lead early in the second half, however the difficult pitch conditions meant the TRR goalkeeper was barely tested by three short corners.
After that, the inevitable Rovers charge came. Strong pressure from the visitors’ forward line forced an error from the Bann defence, which was clinically punished by ex-international Peter Blakeney.
That left the sides evenly matched with ten to go and the tension on the sidelines was tangible.
Warren McCully awarded Bann the advantage following a foul in the TRR 25 metre area and Stephen Dowds duly smashed the ball in from the edge of the circle to give his side a timely lead.
With seven minutes still to go and all to play for, TRR came back with a barrage of attacks. The Bann men held their ground though with defensive lynch-pin Philip Brown bravely blocking multiple shots.
In a nail biting finish, a well won short corner by Dane Ward provided Bann with the opportunity to kill the game off. Stephen Dowds fired an unstoppable drag-flick high into the goal to the delight of the Bann support.
That put the game beyond all doubt and Bann go on into the semi-finals, which will be played in the new year.